Parallel information processing channels created in the retina

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Oct 5;107(40):17087-94. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1011782107. Epub 2010 Sep 27.


In the retina, several parallel channels originate that extract different attributes from the visual scene. This review describes how these channels arise and what their functions are. Following the introduction four sections deal with these channels. The first discusses the "ON" and "OFF" channels that have arisen for the purpose of rapidly processing images in the visual scene that become visible by virtue of either light increment or light decrement; the ON channel processes images that become visible by virtue of light increment and the OFF channel processes images that become visible by virtue of light decrement. The second section examines the midget and parasol channels. The midget channel processes fine detail, wavelength information, and stereoscopic depth cues; the parasol channel plays a central role in processing motion and flicker as well as motion parallax cues for depth perception. Both these channels have ON and OFF subdivisions. The third section describes the accessory optic system that receives input from the retinal ganglion cells of Dogiel; these cells play a central role, in concert with the vestibular system, in stabilizing images on the retina to prevent the blurring of images that would otherwise occur when an organism is in motion. The last section provides a brief overview of several additional channels that originate in the retina.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aminobutyrates / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology
  • Light
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Aminobutyrates
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid