Inhibitory Interneurons in the Retina: Types, Circuitry, and Function

Annu Rev Vis Sci. 2017 Sep 15;3:1-24. doi: 10.1146/annurev-vision-102016-061345. Epub 2017 Jun 15.


Visual signals in the vertebrate retina are shaped by feedback and feedforward inhibition in two synaptic layers. In one, horizontal cells establish fundamental center-surround receptive-field properties via morphologically and physiologically complex synapses with photoreceptors and bipolar cells. In the other, a panoply of amacrine cells imbue ganglion cell responses with spatiotemporally complex information about the visual world. Here, I review current ideas about horizontal cell signaling, considering the evidence for and against the leading, competing theories. I also discuss recent work that has begun to make sense of the remarkable morphological and physiological diversity of amacrine cells. These latter efforts have been aided tremendously by increasingly complete connectivity maps of inner retinal circuitry and new genetic tools that enable study of individual, sparsely expressed amacrine cell types.

Keywords: amacrine cell; feedback inhibition; feedforward inhibition; horizontal cell; visual processing.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Amacrine Cells / cytology
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / cytology*
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / cytology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / physiology*
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / cytology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*