Functional imaging reveals rapid development of visual response properties in the zebrafish tectum

Neuron. 2005 Mar 24;45(6):941-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.01.047.


The visual pathway from the retina to the optic tectum in fish and frogs has long been studied as a model for neural circuit formation. Although morphological aspects, such as axonal and dendritic arborization, have been well characterized, less is known about how this translates into functional properties of tectal neurons during development. We developed a system to provide controlled visual stimuli to larval zebrafish, while performing two-photon imaging of tectal neurons loaded with a fluorescent calcium indicator, allowing us to determine visual response properties in intact fish. In relatively mature larvae, we describe receptive field sizes, visual topography, and direction and size selectivity. We also characterize the onset and development of visual responses, beginning when retinal axons first arborize in the tectum. Surprisingly, most of these properties are established soon after dendrite growth and synaptogenesis begin and do not require patterned visual experience or a protracted period of refinement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Growth Cones / physiology
  • Growth Cones / ultrastructure
  • Image Cytometry / methods
  • Larva / anatomy & histology
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Superior Colliculi / growth & development
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / cytology
  • Visual Pathways / growth & development
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology
  • Zebrafish / growth & development
  • Zebrafish / physiology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes