Published on Thu Jul 22 2021

Conserved Circuits for Direction Selectivity in the Primate Retina

Patterson, S. S., Bembry, B. N., Mazzaferri, M. A., Neitz, M., Rieke, F., Soetedjo, R., Neitz, J.

The detection of motion direction is a fundamental visual function and a classic model for neural computation. In the non-primate mammalian retina, direction selectivity arises in starburst amacrine cell (SAC) dendrites. SACs are present in primates, their connectivity is unknown.

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Abstract

The detection of motion direction is a fundamental visual function and a classic model for neural computation. In the non-primate mammalian retina, direction selectivity arises in starburst amacrine cell (SAC) dendrites, which provide selective inhibition to ON and ON-OFF direction selective retinal ganglion cells (dsRGCs). While SACs are present in primates, their connectivity is unknown and the existence of primate dsRGCs remains an open question. Here we present a connectomic reconstruction of the primate ON SAC circuit from a serial electron microscopy volume of macaque central retina. We show that the structural basis for the SAC's ability to compute and confer directional selectivity on post-synaptic RGCs is conserved in primates and that SACs selectively target a single ganglion cell type, a candidate homolog to the mammalian ON-sustained dsRGCs that project to the accessory optic system and contribute to gaze-stabilizing reflexes. These results indicate that the capacity to compute motion direction is present in the retina, far earlier in the primate visual system than classically thought, and they shed light on the distinguishing features of primate motion processing by revealing the extent to which ancestral motion circuits are conserved.