The ON-OFF direction selective ganglion cells (DSGCs) in the mammalian retina respond differentially for an object moving in different directions. DSGCs can be further segregated into four functional subtypes, namely those responsible for the detection of motion in the superior, inferior, anterior, and posterior directions of the visual field. Although it has been known that the basic neural circuit of direction selectivity is established at around the time of eye opening, it is less known if the four DSGC subtypes can be unambiguously distinguished at this time and whether their preferred directions are aligned with four canonical axes at this developmental stage. By examining the preferred directions of DSGCs in P10-12 rabbit retinas and characterizing their distribution pattern, we have shown that the preferred directions of DSGCs at around the time of eye opening are not distinctly segregated but rather are diffusely distributed along the four canonical axes. Similar results were found in the mouse retina by reanalyzing previously published data. Furthermore, taking into account the fact that the direction tuning strength of DSGCs at P10-12 is weaker than that in adults, this was found not to be correlated with their preferred directions, which suggests that the maturations of direction selectivity and preferred direction are independent processes. In addition, we also found that the subtypes of DSGCs, which do not display tracer coupling pattern in the adult, show extensive coupling at P10-12. Taken together, the present study supports that the significant refinement after eye opening is required for the development of the four functional DSGC subtypes in the rabbit retina.
Keywords: Direction tuning strength; retinal ganglion cells; tracer coupling pattern.