New insight into the circuitry of the retina
By Grant Banks
November 10, 2010
A better understanding of color vision has been gained in a feat of interdisciplinary and inter-institutional science. Researchers from neuroscience, nanoengineering, physics and electronics departments at universities on opposite sides of the world have come together to build a sensor that detects activity in the neural circuitry of the eye with a level of accuracy never before seen.
Scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, Stanford University(U.S.), the University of California, and the University of Glasgow have combined to develop a 519-electrode array to measure activity in the cells of the retina. Of interest is the relationship between the cone photoreceptor cells within the retina and the ganglion cells which transmit information from the retina to the brain. The researchers will now use this technology to gain further knowledge of vision disorders in a bid to ultimately find new treatments.
The photoreceptors in the retina are made up of two types: rods which see in black and white, and cones that detect color. Different cone cells in the retina respond to different light wavelengths or colors. This sectioning of wavelength reception gives rise to color vision. How these signals are combined by the retina and transmitted by the ganglion cells and onto the brain has been the subject of debate for years.
Dr. Keith Mathieson, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow (and currently based at Stanford University and the University of California), was a key figure in developing this technology which records neural signals at over ten million samples each second with a very fine resolution.
“The electrode array we developed enabled us to measure the retinal output signals of hundreds of cells simultaneously and create a map of the input-output relationship at an unprecedented resolution and scale,” Dr. Mathieson said. “To develop new therapies for vision related problems, it is necessary to fully understand how the retina works. This research gives us a much greater insight into the circuitry of the retina and is an important development for neuroscience."
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