The honeybee Apis mellifera represents a valuable model for studying the neural segregation and integration of visual information. Vision in honeybees has been extensively studied at the behavioral level and, to a lesser degree, at the physiological level using intracellular electrophysiological recordings of single neurons. However, our knowledge of visual processing in honeybees is still limited by the lack of functional studies of visual processing at the circuit level. Here we contribute to filling this gap by providing a neuroanatomical and neurophysiological characterization at the circuit level of a practically unstudied visual area of the bee brain, the anterior optic tubercle (AOTu). First, we analyzed the internal organization and neuronal connections of the AOTu. Second, we established a novel protocol for performing optophysiological recordings of visual circuit activity in the honeybee brain and studied the responses of AOTu interneurons during stimulation of distinct eye regions. Our neuroanatomical data show an intricate compartmentalization and connectivity of the AOTu, revealing a dorsoventral segregation of the visual input to the AOTu. Light stimuli presented in different parts of the visual field (dorsal, lateral, or ventral) induce distinct patterns of activation in AOTu output interneurons, retaining to some extent the dorsoventral input segregation revealed by our neuroanatomical data. In particular, activity patterns evoked by dorsal and ventral eye stimulation are clearly segregated into distinct AOTu subunits. Our results therefore suggest an involvement of the AOTu in the processing of dorsoventrally segregated visual information in the honeybee brain.
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