The thalamocortical (TC) relay neuron of the dorsoLateral Geniculate Nucleus (dLGN) has borne its imprecise label for many decades in spite of strong evidence that its role in visual processing transcends the implied simplicity of the term "relay". The retinogeniculate synapse is the site of communication between a retinal ganglion cell and a TC neuron of the dLGN. Activation of retinal fibers in the optic tract causes reliable, rapid, and robust postsynaptic potentials that drive postsynaptics spikes in a TC neuron. Cortical and subcortical modulatory systems have been known for decades to regulate retinogeniculate transmission. The dynamic properties that the retinogeniculate synapse itself exhibits during and after developmental refinement further enrich the role of the dLGN in the transmission of the retinal signal. Here we consider the structural and functional substrates for retinogeniculate synaptic transmission and plasticity, and reflect on how the complexity of the retinogeniculate synapse imparts a novel dynamic and influential capacity to subcortical processing of visual information.
Keywords: Developmental refinement; Retinogeniculate synapse; Short-term plasticity; Synaptic transmission; Visual circuit.