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The most numerous ganglion cell type of the mouse retina is a selective feature detector

Zhang, Yifeng and Kim, In-Jung and Sanes, Joshua R. and Meister, Markus (2012) The most numerous ganglion cell type of the mouse retina is a selective feature detector. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (36). E2391-E2398. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC3437843.

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The retina reports the visual scene to the brain through many parallel channels, each carried by a distinct population of retinal ganglion cells. Among these, the population with the smallest and densest receptive fields encodes the neural image with highest resolution. In human retina, and those of cat and macaque, these high-resolution ganglion cells act as generic pixel encoders: They serve to represent many different visual inputs and convey a neural image of the scene downstream for further processing. Here we identify and analyze high-resolution ganglion cells in the mouse retina, using a transgenic line in which these cells, called “W3”, are labeled fluorescently. Counter to the expectation, these ganglion cells do not participate in encoding generic visual scenes, but remain silent during most common visual stimuli. A detailed study of their response properties showed that W3 cells pool rectified excitation from both On and Off bipolar cells, which makes them sensitive to local motion. However, they also receive unusually strong lateral inhibition, both pre- and postsynaptically, triggered by distant motion. As a result, the W3 cell can detect small moving objects down to the receptive field size of bipolar cells, but only if the background is featureless or stationary—an unusual condition. A survey of naturalistic stimuli shows that W3 cells may serve as alarm neurons for overhead predators.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Information CentralArticle
Meister, Markus0000-0003-2136-6506
Additional Information:© 2012 National Academy of Sciences. Contributed by Joshua R. Sanes, July 7, 2012 (sent for review May 4, 2012). Published online before print August 13, 2012. We thank Jeremy Kay for advice and sharing results on retinal gene expression patterns. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants NS29169, EY020426, EY019355, EY010020, and EY014737 and a Charles A. King fellowship (to Y.Z.). Author contributions: Y.Z., J.R.S., and M.M. designed research; Y.Z. performed research; I.-J.K. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; Y.Z., J.R.S., and M.M. analyzed data; and Y.Z., J.R.S., and M.M. wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest. See Author Summary on page 14297 (volume 109, number 36). This article contains supporting information online at
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Charles A. King FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:electrophysiology; vision; neural processing; density recovery profile
Issue or Number:36
PubMed Central ID:PMC3437843
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170404-135114672
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Official Citation:Yifeng Zhang, In-Jung Kim, Joshua R. Sanes, and Markus Meister The most numerous ganglion cell type of the mouse retina is a selective feature detector PNAS 2012 109 (36) E2391–E2398; published ahead of print August 13, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1211547109
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:75700
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:04 Apr 2017 21:37
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 16:53

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