The AII amacrine network: coupling can increase correlated activity

Vision Res. 1996 Dec;36(23):3743-57. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(96)00098-3.


Retinal ganglion cells in the cat respond to single rhodopsin isomerizations with one to three spikes. This quantal signal is transmitted in the retina by the rod bipolar pathway: rod-->rod bipolar-->AII-->cone bipolar-->ganglion cell. The two-dimensional circuit underlying this pathway includes extensive convergence from rods to an AII amacrine cell, divergence from a rod to several AII and ganglion cells, and coupling between the AII amacrine cells. In this study we explored the function of coupling by reconstructing several AII amacrine cells and the gap junctions between them from electron micrographs; and simulating the AII network with and without coupling. The simulation showed that coupling in the AII network can: (1) improve the signal/noise ratio in the AII network; (2) improve the signal/noise ratio for a single rhodopsin isomerization striking in the periphery of the ganglion cell receptive field center, and therefore in most ganglion cells responding to a single isomerization; (3) expand the AII and ganglion cells' receptive field center; and (4) expand the "correlation field". All of these effects have one major outcome: an increase in correlation between ganglion cell activity. Well correlated activity between the ganglion cells could improve the brain's ability to discriminate few absorbed external photons from the high background of spontaneous thermal isomerizations. Based on the possible benefits of coupling in the AII network, we suggest that coupling occurs at low scotopic luminances.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Gap Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Models, Neurological
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology