Directionally selective calcium signals in dendrites of starburst amacrine cells

Nature. 2002 Aug 22;418(6900):845-52. doi: 10.1038/nature00931. Epub 2002 Aug 4.


The detection of image motion is fundamental to vision. In many species, unique classes of retinal ganglion cells selectively respond to visual stimuli that move in specific directions. It is not known which retinal cell first performs the neural computations that give rise to directional selectivity in the ganglion cell. A prominent candidate has been an interneuron called the 'starburst amacrine cell'. Using two-photon optical recordings of intracellular calcium concentration, here we find that individual dendritic branches of starburst cells act as independent computation modules. Dendritic calcium signals, but not somatic membrane voltage, are directionally selective for stimuli that move centrifugally from the cell soma. This demonstrates that direction selectivity is computed locally in dendritic branches at a stage before ganglion cells.

MeSH terms

  • Amacrine Cells / cytology
  • Amacrine Cells / drug effects
  • Amacrine Cells / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling* / drug effects
  • Cell Size
  • Darkness
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / metabolism*
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Light
  • Motion Perception / drug effects
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Photons
  • Pyridazines / pharmacology
  • Rabbits
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism*
  • Visual Perception / drug effects
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • GABA Antagonists
  • Pyridazines
  • gabazine
  • Calcium