Adaptation of Inhibition Mediates Retinal Sensitization

Curr Biol. 2019 Aug 19;29(16):2640-2651.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.06.081. Epub 2019 Aug 1.


In response to a changing sensory environment, sensory systems adjust their neural code for a number of purposes, including an enhanced sensitivity for novel stimuli, prediction of sensory features, and the maintenance of sensitivity. Retinal sensitization is a form of short-term plasticity that elevates local sensitivity following strong, local, visual stimulation and has been shown to create a prediction of the presence of a nearby localized object. The neural mechanism that generates this elevation in sensitivity remains unknown. Using simultaneous intracellular and multielectrode recording in the salamander retina, we show that a decrease in tonic amacrine transmission is necessary for and is correlated spatially and temporally with ganglion cell sensitization. Furthermore, introducing a decrease in amacrine transmission is sufficient to sensitize nearby ganglion cells. A computational model accounting for adaptive dynamics and nonlinear pathways confirms a decrease in steady inhibitory transmission can cause sensitization. Adaptation of inhibition enhances the sensitivity to the sensory feature conveyed by an inhibitory pathway, creating a prediction of future input.

Keywords: adaptation; computational model; information processing; inhibition; neural circuit; visual system.

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

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Ambystoma
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Larva
  • Male
  • Neural Inhibition*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*