Inhibition decorrelates visual feature representations in the inner retina

Nature. 2017 Feb 23;542(7642):439-444. doi: 10.1038/nature21394. Epub 2017 Feb 8.


The retina extracts visual features for transmission to the brain. Different types of bipolar cell split the photoreceptor input into parallel channels and provide the excitatory drive for downstream visual circuits. Mouse bipolar cell types have been described at great anatomical and genetic detail, but a similarly deep understanding of their functional diversity is lacking. Here, by imaging light-driven glutamate release from more than 13,000 bipolar cell axon terminals in the intact retina, we show that bipolar cell functional diversity is generated by the interplay of dendritic excitatory inputs and axonal inhibitory inputs. The resulting centre and surround components of bipolar cell receptive fields interact to decorrelate bipolar cell output in the spatial and temporal domains. Our findings highlight the importance of inhibitory circuits in generating functionally diverse excitatory pathways and suggest that decorrelation of parallel visual pathways begins as early as the second synapse of the mouse visual system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amacrine Cells / physiology
  • Animals
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / radiation effects
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / radiation effects
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / radiation effects
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Retinal Bipolar Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Bipolar Cells / radiation effects
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / radiation effects
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / radiation effects
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glycine