Broad thorny ganglion cells: a candidate for visual pursuit error signaling in the primate retina

J Neurosci. 2015 Apr 1;35(13):5397-408. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4369-14.2015.


Functional analyses exist only for a few of the morphologically described primate ganglion cell types, and their correlates in other mammalian species remain elusive. Here, we recorded light responses of broad thorny cells in the whole-mounted macaque retina. They showed ON-OFF-center light responses that were strongly suppressed by stimulation of the receptive field surround. Spike responses were delayed compared with parasol ganglion cells and other ON-OFF cells, including recursive bistratified ganglion cells and A1 amacrine cells. The receptive field structure was shaped by direct excitatory synaptic input and strong presynaptic and postsynaptic inhibition in both ON and OFF pathways. The cells responded strongly to dark or bright stimuli moving either in or out of the receptive field, independent of the direction of motion. However, they did not show a maintained spike response either to a uniform background or to a drifting plaid pattern. These properties could be ideally suited for guiding movements involved in visual pursuit. The functional characteristics reported here permit the first direct cross-species comparison of putative homologous ganglion cell types. Based on morphological similarities, broad thorny ganglion cells have been proposed to be homologs of rabbit local edge detector ganglion cells, but we now show that the two cells have quite distinct physiological properties. Thus, our data argue against broad thorny cells as the homologs of local edge detector cells.

Keywords: eye movements; ganglion cells; light responses; nonimage-forming vision; primate retina.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Amacrine Cells / physiology
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Macaca
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology*
  • Retina / anatomy & histology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology