Electrophysiological evidence for a direct projection of direction-sensitive retinal ganglion cells to the turtle's accessory optic system

Academic Article


  • 1. The direct retinal input pathway to the basal optic nucleus (BON), the primary nucleus of the turtle accessory optic system, was characterized physiologically. We tested the hypothesis that directional information encoded in retinal ganglion cells can influence the BON via a direct pathway. Using an in vitro whole-brain, eyes-attached preparation, we demonstrated the directness of this pathway by 1) antidromic activation of retinal ganglion cells from the contralateral BON and 2) orthodromic activation of the BON from the contralateral optic nerve. 2. Of 72 physiologically classified retinal ganglion cells, 9 could be antidromically activated from the contralateral BON with low current (<200 μA). Eight of these cells were direction-sensitive (DS). The ninth cell did not respond to visual stimulus movement. The antidromic latencies ranged from 2.2 to 6.1 ms with a mean of 3.8 ms. These latencies were quite consistent for each cell, having an average SD of 0.08 ms. Moreover, consistent responses could always be recorded at stimulation rates up to 100 Hz. 3. With current stimulation of the contralateral optic nerve, the orthodromic conduction latency of 17 BON single units ranged from 2.5 to 6.6 ms with a mean of 4.6 ms. These latencies were more variable for an individual cell, having an average SD of 0.3 ms. Responses to individual current pulses could never be consistently evoked at stimulation rates >40 Hz. 4. DS responses were recorded in BON single units after the removal of the dorsal midbrain, including the optic tectum and pretectum as well as the telencephalon. Three of these cells were activated orthodromically by current stimulation delivered to the contralateral optic nerve. Thus directional information reaches the BON via a direct projection from the contralateral retina. 5. Visual response properties of DS retinal ganglion cells were compared with those of BON cells to examine the transformations that take place in the brain stem. Applying a limacon model to the responses of both DS retinal ganglion cells and BON cells revealed that both types of cells have very similar direction tuning. However, the distribution of maximally responsive directions in the retina may differ from that of the BON. 6. Because DS retinal ganglion cells project directly to the BON, and because BON cells lose their direction sensitivity after retinal application of GABA antagonists, we conclude that the BON receives essential directional information directly from DS retinal ganglion cells. This directional information in the BON may represent a retinal slip error signal necessary for retinal image stabilization.
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    Author List

  • Rosenberg AF; Ariel M
  • Start Page

  • 1022
  • End Page

  • 1033
  • Volume

  • 65
  • Issue

  • 5