Direction selectivity in the larval zebrafish tectum is mediated by asymmetric inhibition

Front Neural Circuits. 2012 Sep 4:6:59. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2012.00059. eCollection 2012.


The extraction of the direction of motion is an important computation performed by many sensory systems and in particular, the mechanism by which direction-selective retinal ganglion cells (DS-RGCs) in the retina acquire their selective properties, has been studied extensively. However, whether DS-RGCs simply relay this information to downstream areas or whether additional and potentially de novo processing occurs in these recipient structures is a matter of great interest. Neurons in the larval zebrafish tectum, the largest retino-recipent area in this animal, show direction-selective (DS) responses to moving visual stimuli but how these properties are acquired is still unknown. In order to study this, we first used two-photon calcium imaging to classify the population responses of tectal cells to bars moving at different speeds and in different directions. Subsequently, we performed in vivo whole cell electrophysiology on these DS tectal neurons and we found that their inhibitory inputs were strongly biased toward the null direction of motion, whereas the excitatory inputs showed little selectivity. In addition, we found that excitatory currents evoked by a stimulus moving in the preferred direction occurred before the inhibitory currents whereas a stimulus moving in the null direction evoked currents in the reverse temporal order. The membrane potential modulations resulting from these currents were enhanced by the spike generation mechanism to generate amplified direction selectivity in the spike output. Thus, our results implicate a local inhibitory circuit in generating direction selectivity in tectal neurons.

Keywords: asymmetric inhibition; direction selectivity; tectum; vision; zebrafish.