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Other Visual Systems

3-D reconstruction of the three simple eyes of a bee 
3-D reconstruction of the three simple eyes of a bee. C-G shows the head head rolling towards the camera. The three clear zones in G are the lenses of the simple eyes. The purple and blue within show different retinas. The complex optical arrangement allows the animal to detect head roll.

While the human visual system is of great interest and research relating to it has direct medical value, it is important to investigate other visual systems. In recent years a great deal of interest has been shown in the field of robotics in copying visual designs from the insect nervous system.

Insects, such as bees, achieve amazing levels of autonomous flight control. They are able to search for food sources and identify them using vision, then find their way home using sophisticated path integration techniques.

The NVRI has investigated the insect visual system, using the bee as the model animal. Dr Yu-Shan Hung conducted beautiful work revealing some of the elements of the nervous system responsible for the flight stability of bees while they make those complex journeys to and from their food sources.

A neuron known to be involved in correcting body orientation in a bee.

During her time at the NVRI Dr Hung also worked out how the insect eyes are optimally located to detect body movements and developed 3-dimensional models that allow this to be adapted for flying robotic vehicles.

The work was done in collaboration with Professor Srinivasan at the Queensland Brain Institute and revealed how bees use particular colours of light to assist with achieving flight stability. Previously, the prevailing view was that such systems only used green signals from the outside environment.