Functional characterization of retinal ganglion cells using tailored nonlinear modeling

Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 18;9(1):8713. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-45048-8.


The mammalian retina encodes the visual world in action potentials generated by 20-50 functionally and anatomically-distinct types of retinal ganglion cell (RGC). Individual RGC types receive synaptic input from distinct presynaptic circuits; therefore, their responsiveness to specific features in the visual scene arises from the information encoded in synaptic input and shaped by postsynaptic signal integration and spike generation. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of tools for characterizing the computations reflected in RGC spike output. Therefore, we developed a statistical model, the separable Nonlinear Input Model, to characterize the excitatory and suppressive components of RGC receptive fields. We recorded RGC responses to a correlated noise ("cloud") stimulus in an in vitro preparation of mouse retina and found that our model accurately predicted RGC responses at high spatiotemporal resolution. It identified multiple receptive fields reflecting the main excitatory and suppressive components of the response of each neuron. Significantly, our model accurately identified ON-OFF cells and distinguished their distinct ON and OFF receptive fields, and it demonstrated a diversity of suppressive receptive fields in the RGC population. In total, our method offers a rich description of RGC computation and sets a foundation for relating it to retinal circuitry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*