Contributions of Retinal Ganglion Cells to Subcortical Visual Processing and Behaviors

Annu Rev Vis Sci. 2015 Nov 24;1:291-328. doi: 10.1146/annurev-vision-082114-035502.


Every aspect of visual perception and behavior is built from the neural activity of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the output neurons of the eye. Here, we review progress toward understanding the many types of RGCs that communicate visual signals to the brain, along with the subcortical brain regions that use those signals to build and respond to representations of the outside world. We emphasize recent progress in the use of mouse genetics, viral circuit tracing, and behavioral psychophysics to define and map the various RGCs and their associated networks. We also address questions about the homology of RGC types in mice and other species including nonhuman primates and humans. Finally, we propose a framework for understanding RGC typology and for highlighting the relationship between RGC type-specific circuitry and the processing stations in the brain that support and give rise to the perception of sight.

Keywords: behavior; cell types; parallel pathways; retina; vision.