PD Dr.Thomas Labhart


Curriculum Vitae
                    University of Zurich
Institute of Molecular Life Sciences
Winterthurerstrasse 190
CH-8057 Zurich / Switzerland
Tel: ++41 (0)44 635 48 32
Fax: ++41 (0)44 635 68 17

Polarization vision in insects

The sky appears bright and not black because on its way through the atmosphere the light that is radiated by the sun is scattered by air molecules. As a result of this scattering, skylight is partly plane-polarized. Skylight polarization offers insects a useful reference for a visual compass, which can be used for navigation involving path integration or for keeping course during a journey.
Our goal is to understand the neural basis of polarized skylight detection in insects. Using a multidisciplinary approach we study the neural mechanisms of polarization vision on the photoreceptor level, in the optic lobe, and in the central brain. Intracellular electrophysiology combined with cell marking serves to assess the signaling properties and the morphology of photoreceptors and neurons involved. Using histological techniques we study the fine-structural specializations of polarization-sensitive photoreceptors, and from optical measurements we examine their specialized optics. Behavioral experiments serve to test the performance of the intact polarization vision system. With the synthetic approach we test hypotheses by computer models and by electro-optic, neuromimetic neuron models and robots.


  Insect POL-neurons
Models and robots
Do Monarch butterflies have a polarization compass?
The phylogeny of the polarization compass