Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Retina


Migraine headache is uniquely exacerbated by light. Using psychophysical assessments in patients with normal eyesight we found that green light exacerbates migraine headache significantly less than white, blue, amber or red lights. To delineate mechanisms, we used electroretinography and visual evoked potential recording in patients, and multi-unit recording of dura- and light-sensitive thalamic neurons in rats to show that green activates cone-driven retinal pathways to a lesser extent than white, blue and red; that thalamic neurons are most responsive to blue and least responsive to green; and that cortical responses to green are significantly smaller than those generated by blue, amber and red lights. These findings suggest that patients' experience with colour and migraine photophobia could originate in cone-driven retinal pathways, fine-tuned in relay thalamic neurons outside the main visual pathway, and preserved by the cortex. Additionally, the findings provide substrate for the soothing effects of green light.

Concepts: Migraine, Light, Green, Cerebral cortex, Brain, Red, Color, Retina


Astronomers and physicists noticed centuries ago that visual spatial resolution is higher for dark than light stimuli, but the neuronal mechanisms for this perceptual asymmetry remain unknown. Here we demonstrate that the asymmetry is caused by a neuronal nonlinearity in the early visual pathway. We show that neurons driven by darks (OFF neurons) increase their responses roughly linearly with luminance decrements, independent of the background luminance. However, neurons driven by lights (ON neurons) saturate their responses with small increases in luminance and need bright backgrounds to approach the linearity of OFF neurons. We show that, as a consequence of this difference in linearity, receptive fields are larger in ON than OFF thalamic neurons, and cortical neurons are more strongly driven by darks than lights at low spatial frequencies. This ON/OFF asymmetry in linearity could be demonstrated in the visual cortex of cats, monkeys, and humans and in the cat visual thalamus. Furthermore, in the cat visual thalamus, we show that the neuronal nonlinearity is present at the ON receptive field center of ON-center neurons and ON receptive field surround of OFF-center neurons, suggesting an origin at the level of the photoreceptor. These results demonstrate a fundamental difference in visual processing between ON and OFF channels and reveal a competitive advantage for OFF neurons over ON neurons at low spatial frequencies, which could be important during cortical development when retinal images are blurred by immature optics in infant eyes.

Concepts: Optics, Visual system, Receptive field, Thalamus, Photoreceptor cell, Brain, Retina, Cerebral cortex


Visual abilities of the honey bee have been studied for more than 100 years, recently revealing unexpectedly sophisticated cognitive skills rivalling those of vertebrates. However, the physiological limits of the honey bee eye have been largely unaddressed and only studied in an unnatural, dark state. Using a bright display and intracellular recordings, we here systematically investigated the angular sensitivity across the light adapted eye of honey bee foragers. Angular sensitivity is a measure of photoreceptor receptive field size and thus small values indicate higher visual acuity. Our recordings reveal a fronto-ventral acute zone in which angular sensitivity falls below 1.9°, some 30% smaller than previously reported. By measuring receptor noise and responses to moving dark objects, we also obtained direct measures of the smallest features detectable by the retina. In the frontal eye, single photoreceptors respond to objects as small as 0.6° × 0.6°, with >99% reliability. This indicates that honey bee foragers possess significantly better resolution than previously reported or estimated behaviourally, and commonly assumed in modelling of bee acuity.

Concepts: Rod cell, Insect, Visual acuity, Receptive field, Honey bee, Eye, Retina, Photoreceptor cell


A 19-year-old man presented with a mass in his right eye that had been present since birth but had gradually increased in size. The mass caused vision defects, mild discomfort on blinking, and the intermittent sensation of the presence of a foreign body.

Concepts: Teratoma, Binocular vision, Lens, Brain, Depth perception, Visual perception, Retina, Eye


One strategy to restore vision in retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration is cell replacement. Typically, patients lose vision when the outer retinal photoreceptor layer is lost, and so the therapeutic goal would be to restore vision at this stage of disease. It is not currently known if a degenerate retina lacking the outer nuclear layer of photoreceptor cells would allow the survival, maturation, and reconnection of replacement photoreceptors, as prior studies used hosts with a preexisting outer nuclear layer at the time of treatment. Here, using a murine model of severe human retinitis pigmentosa at a stage when no host rod cells remain, we show that transplanted rod precursors can reform an anatomically distinct and appropriately polarized outer nuclear layer. A trilaminar organization was returned to rd1 hosts that had only two retinal layers before treatment. The newly introduced precursors were able to resume their developmental program in the degenerate host niche to become mature rods with light-sensitive outer segments, reconnecting with host neurons downstream. Visual function, assayed in the same animals before and after transplantation, was restored in animals with zero rod function at baseline. These observations suggest that a cell therapy approach may reconstitute a light-sensitive cell layer de novo and hence repair a structurally damaged visual circuit. Rather than placing discrete photoreceptors among preexisting host outer retinal cells, total photoreceptor layer reconstruction may provide a clinically relevant model to investigate cell-based strategies for retinal repair.

Concepts: Rod cell, Cone cell, Rhodopsin, Macular degeneration, Visual system, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Retina


The molecular circadian clocks in the mammalian retina are locally synchronized by environmental light cycles independent of the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in the brain. Unexpectedly, this entrainment does not require rods, cones, or melanopsin (OPN4), possibly suggesting the involvement of another retinal photopigment. Here, we show that the ex vivo mouse retinal rhythm is most sensitive to short-wavelength light but that this photoentrainment requires neither the short-wavelength-sensitive cone pigment [S-pigment or cone opsin (OPN1SW)] nor encephalopsin (OPN3). However, retinas lacking neuropsin (OPN5) fail to photoentrain, even though other visual functions appear largely normal. Initial evidence suggests that OPN5 is expressed in select retinal ganglion cells. Remarkably, the mouse corneal circadian rhythm is also photoentrainable ex vivo, and this photoentrainment likewise requires OPN5. Our findings reveal a light-sensing function for mammalian OPN5, until now an orphan opsin.

Concepts: G protein coupled receptors, Rod cell, Circadian rhythm, Photosensitive ganglion cell, Opsin, Photoreceptor cell, Eye, Retina


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness among the elderly. AMD patients have elevated levels of membrane attack complex (MAC) in their choroidal blood vessels and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). MAC forms pores in cell membranes. Low levels of MAC result in an elevation of cytokine release such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that promotes the formation of choroidal neovascularization (CNV). High levels of MAC result in cell lysis and RPE degeneration is a hallmark of advanced AMD. The current standard of care for CNV associated with wet AMD is intravitreal injection of anti-VEGF molecules every 4 to 12 weeks. Such injections have significant side effects. Recently, it has been found that membrane pore-forming proteins such as α-haemolysin can mediate their toxic effects through auto- and paracrine signaling and that complement-induced lysis is amplified through ATP release followed by P2X receptor activation. We hypothesized that attenuation of P2X receptor activation may lead to a reduction in MAC deposition and consequent formation of CNV. Hence, in this study we investigated topical application of the purinergic P2X antagonist Pyridoxalphosphate-6-azophenyl-2',4'-disulphonic acid (PPADS) as a potential treatment for AMD. We found that 4.17 µM PPADS inhibited formation of HUVEC master junctions and master segments by 74.7%. In a human complement mediated cell lysis assay, 104 µM PPADS enabled almost complete protection of Hepa1c1c7 cells from 1% normal human serum mediated cell lysis. Daily topical application of 4.17 mM PPADS for 3 days attenuated the progression of laser induced CNV in mice by 41.8% and attenuated the deposition of MAC at the site of the laser injury by 19.7%. Our data have implications for the future treatment of AMD and potentially other ocular disorders involving CNV such as angioid streaks, choroidal rupture and high myopia.

Concepts: Cell membrane, Protein, Signal transduction, Bruch's membrane, Immune system, Drusen, Macular degeneration, Retina


While the different sensory modalities are sensitive to different stimulus energies, they are often charged with extracting analogous information about the environment. Neural systems may thus have evolved to implement similar algorithms across modalities to extract behaviorally relevant stimulus information, leading to the notion of a canonical computation. In both vision and touch, information about motion is extracted from a spatiotemporal pattern of activation across a sensory sheet (in the retina and in the skin, respectively), a process that has been extensively studied in both modalities. In this essay, we examine the processing of motion information as it ascends the primate visual and somatosensory neuraxes and conclude that similar computations are implemented in the two sensory systems.

Concepts: Retina, Stimulus modality, Proprioception, Skin, Sense, Somatosensory system, Visual system, Sensory system


In human vision, acuity and color sensitivity are greatest at the center of fixation and fall off rapidly as visual eccentricity increases. Humans exploit the high resolution of central vision by actively moving their eyes three to four times each second. Here we demonstrate that it is possible to classify the task that a person is engaged in from their eye movements using multivariate pattern classification. The results have important theoretical implications for computational and neural models of eye movement control. They also have important practical implications for using passively recorded eye movements to infer the cognitive state of a viewer, information that can be used as input for intelligent human-computer interfaces and related applications.

Concepts: Retina, Saccade, Human, Color, Visual system, Visual perception, Brain, Eye


Myopia, or nearsightedness, is the most common eye disorder, resulting primarily from excess elongation of the eye. The etiology of myopia, although known to be complex, is poorly understood. Here we report the largest ever genome-wide association study (45,771 participants) on myopia in Europeans. We performed a survival analysis on age of myopia onset and identified 22 significant associations ([Formula: see text]), two of which are replications of earlier associations with refractive error. Ten of the 20 novel associations identified replicate in a separate cohort of 8,323 participants who reported if they had developed myopia before age 10. These 22 associations in total explain 2.9% of the variance in myopia age of onset and point toward a number of different mechanisms behind the development of myopia. One association is in the gene , which has previously been linked to abnormally small eyes; one is in a gene that forms part of the extracellular matrix (); two are in or near genes involved in the regeneration of 11-cis-retinal ( and ); two are near genes known to be involved in the growth and guidance of retinal ganglion cells (, ); and five are in or near genes involved in neuronal signaling or development. These novel findings point toward multiple genetic factors involved in the development of myopia and suggest that complex interactions between extracellular matrix remodeling, neuronal development, and visual signals from the retina may underlie the development of myopia in humans.

Concepts: Myopia, Retinal ganglion cell, Visual system, Nervous system, Photoreceptor cell, Genetics, Eye, Retina