The role of starburst amacrine cells in visual signal processing

Vis Neurosci. 2012 Jan;29(1):73-81. doi: 10.1017/S0952523811000393.


Starburst amacrine cells (SBACs) within the adult mammalian retina provide the critical inhibition that underlies the receptive field properties of direction-selective ganglion cells (DSGCs). The SBACs generate direction-selective output of GABA that differentially inhibits the DSGCs. We review the biophysical mechanisms that produce directional GABA release from SBACs and test a network model that predicts the effects of reciprocal inhibition between adjacent SBACs. The results of the model simulations suggest that reciprocal inhibitory connections between closely spaced SBACs should be spatially selective, while connections between more widely spaced cells could be indiscriminate. SBACs were initially identified as cholinergic neurons and were subsequently shown to contain release both acetylcholine and GABA. While the role of the GABAergic transmission is well established, the role of the cholinergic transmission remains unclear.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Amacrine Cells / classification
  • Amacrine Cells / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biophysics
  • Cholinergic Neurons / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Acetylcholine