Topographic Variations in Retinal Encoding of Visual Space

Annu Rev Vis Sci. 2020 Sep 15;6:237-259. doi: 10.1146/annurev-vision-121219-081831. Epub 2020 Apr 22.


A retina completely devoid of topographic variations would be homogenous, encoding any given feature uniformly across the visual field. In a naive view, such homogeneity would appear advantageous. However, it is now clear that retinal topographic variations exist across mammalian species in a variety of forms and patterns. We briefly review some of the more established topographic variations in retinas of different mammalian species and focus on the recent discovery that cells belonging to a single neuronal subtype may exhibit distinct topographic variations in distribution, morphology, and even function. We concentrate on the mouse retina-originally viewed as homogenous-in which genetic labeling of distinct neuronal subtypes and other advanced techniques have revealed unexpected anatomical and physiological topographic variations. Notably, different subtypes reveal different patterns of nonuniformity, which may even be opposite or orthogonal to one another. These topographic variations in the encoding of visual space should be considered when studying visual processing in the retina and beyond.

Keywords: cone opsins; fovea; mouse; retina; retinal ganglion cells; topography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Visual Fields
  • Visual Perception / physiology*