Functional Convergence at the Retinogeniculate Synapse
Precise connectivity between retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and thalamocortical (TC) relay neurons is thought to be essential for the transmission of visual information. Consistent with this view, electrophysiological measurements have previously estimated that 1–3 RGCs converge onto a mouse geniculate TC neuron. Recent advances in connectomics and rabies tracing have yielded much higher estimates of retinogeniculate convergence, although not all identified contacts may be functional. Here we use optogenetics and a computational simulation to determine the number of functionally relevant retinogeniculate inputs onto TC neurons in mice. We find an average of ten RGCs converging onto a mature TC neuron, in contrast to >30 inputs before developmental refinement. However, only 30% of retinogeniculate inputs exceed the threshold for dominating postsynaptic activity. These results signify a greater role for the thalamus in visual processing and provide a functional perspective of anatomical connectivity data.
Publisher URL: http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30906-6
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