Synchronous bursts of action potentials in ganglion cells of the developing mammalian retina

Science. 1991 May 17;252(5008):939-43. doi: 10.1126/science.2035024.


The development of orderly connections in the mammalian visual system depends on action potentials in the optic nerve fibers, even before the retina receives visual input. In particular, it has been suggested that correlated firing of retinal ganglion cells in the same eye directs the segregation of their synaptic terminals into eye-specific layers within the lateral geniculate nucleus. Such correlations in electrical activity were found by simultaneous recording of the extracellular action potentials of up to 100 ganglion cells in the isolated retina of the newborn ferret and the fetal cat. These neurons fired spikes in nearly synchronous bursts lasting a few seconds and separated by 1 to 2 minutes of silence. Individual bursts consisted of a wave of excitation, several hundred micrometers wide, sweeping across the retina at about 100 micrometers per second. These concerted firing patterns have the appropriate spatial and temporal properties to guide the refinement of connections between the retina and the lateral geniculate nucleus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Calcium / pharmacology
  • Cats
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Ferrets
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Retina / growth & development*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular


  • Calcium