Non-image-forming ocular photoreception in vertebrates

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2005 Aug;15(4):415-22. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2005.06.011.


It has been accepted for a hundred years or more that rods and cones are the only photoreceptive cells in the retina. The light signals generated in rods and cones, after processing by downstream retinal neurons (bipolar, horizontal, amacrine and ganglion cells), are transmitted to the brain via the axons of the ganglion cells for further analysis. In the past few years, however, convincing evidence has rapidly emerged indicating that a small subset of retinal ganglion cells in mammals is also intrinsically photosensitive. Melanopsin is the signaling photopigment in these cells. The main function of the inner-retina photoreceptors is to generate and transmit non-image-forming visual information, although some role in conventional vision (image detection) is also possible.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Rod Opsins / physiology*


  • Rod Opsins
  • melanopsin