A Fine-Scale Functional Logic to Convergence from Retina to Thalamus

Cell. 2018 May 31;173(6):1343-1355.e24. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.041. Epub 2018 May 31.


Numerous well-defined classes of retinal ganglion cells innervate the thalamus to guide image-forming vision, yet the rules governing their convergence and divergence remain unknown. Using two-photon calcium imaging in awake mouse thalamus, we observed a functional arrangement of retinal ganglion cell axonal boutons in which coarse-scale retinotopic ordering gives way to fine-scale organization based on shared preferences for other visual features. Specifically, at the ∼6 μm scale, clusters of boutons from different axons often showed similar preferences for either one or multiple features, including axis and direction of motion, spatial frequency, and changes in luminance. Conversely, individual axons could "de-multiplex" information channels by participating in multiple, functionally distinct bouton clusters. Finally, ultrastructural analyses demonstrated that retinal axonal boutons in a local cluster often target the same dendritic domain. These data suggest that functionally specific convergence and divergence of retinal axons may impart diverse, robust, and often novel feature selectivity to visual thalamus.

Keywords: chronic two-photon calcium imaging in awake mice; combination mode; divergence; dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus; presynaptic functional clustering; relay mode; retinal boutons; retinal ganglion cell; visual processing; visual tuning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Fuzzy Logic
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motion
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular
  • Visual Pathways