Multiplexed computations in retinal ganglion cells of a single type

Nat Commun. 2017 Dec 6;8(1):1964. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02159-y.


In the early visual system, cells of the same type perform the same computation in different places of the visual field. How these cells code together a complex visual scene is unclear. A common assumption is that cells of a single-type extract a single-stimulus feature to form a feature map, but this has rarely been observed directly. Using large-scale recordings in the rat retina, we show that a homogeneous population of fast OFF ganglion cells simultaneously encodes two radically different features of a visual scene. Cells close to a moving object code quasilinearly for its position, while distant cells remain largely invariant to the object's position and, instead, respond nonlinearly to changes in the object's speed. We develop a quantitative model that accounts for this effect and identify a disinhibitory circuit that mediates it. Ganglion cells of a single type thus do not code for one, but two features simultaneously. This richer, flexible neural map might also be present in other sensory systems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amacrine Cells / physiology
  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Rats
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Visual Fields