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“In all four-limbed vertebrates studied to date, most of the neurons in this [motion-detecting] brain area are tuned to detect motion coming from behind, such as would occur for an impending collision or when being attacked from behind by a predator,” says Douglas Altshuler of the University of British Columbia. “We found that this brain area responds very differently in hummingbirds. Instead of most neurons being tuned to back-to-front motion, almost every neuron we found was tuned to a different direction. We also found that these neurons were most responsive to very fast motion.”
“This study provides compelling support for the hypothesis that the avian brain is specialized for flight and that hummingbirds are a powerful model for studying stabilization algorithms,” Gaede says.