Gap Junctions Contribute to Differential Light Adaptation across Direction-Selective Retinal Ganglion Cells.


Direction-selective ganglion cells (DSGCs) deliver signals from the retina to multiple brain areas to indicate the presence and direction of motion. Delivering reliable signals in response to motion is critical across light levels. Here we determine how populations of DSGCs adapt to changes in light level, from moonlight to daylight. Using large-scale measurements of neural activity, we demonstrate that the population of DSGCs switches encoding strategies across light levels. Specifically, the direction tuning of superior (upward)-preferring ON-OFF DSGCs becomes broader at low light levels, whereas other DSGCs exhibit stable tuning. Using a conditional knockout of gap junctions, we show that this differential adaptation among superior-preferring ON-OFF DSGCs is caused by connexin36-mediated electrical coupling and differences in effective GABAergic inhibition. Furthermore, this adaptation strategy is beneficial for balancing motion detection and direction estimation at the lower signal-to-noise ratio encountered at night. These results provide insights into how light adaptation impacts motion encoding in the retina.





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Publication Info

Yao, Xiaoyang, Jon Cafaro, Amanda J McLaughlin, Friso R Postma, David L Paul, Gautam Awatramani and Greg D Field (2018). Gap Junctions Contribute to Differential Light Adaptation across Direction-Selective Retinal Ganglion Cells. Neuron, 100(1). pp. 216–228.e6. 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.08.021 Retrieved from

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Greg D. Field

Adjunct Associate Professor of Neurobiology

My laboratory studies how the retina processes visual scenes and transmits this information to the brain.  We use multi-electrode arrays to record the activity of hundreds of retina neurons simultaneously in conjunction with transgenic mouse lines and chemogenetics to manipulate neural circuit function. We are interested in three major areas. First, we work to understand how neurons in the retina are functionally connected. Second we are studying how light-adaptation and circadian rhythms alter visual processing in the retina. Finally, we are working to understand the mechanisms of retinal degenerative conditions and we are investigating potential treatments in animal models.

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