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Concept: 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


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


Saffron, an extract from Crocus sativus, has been largely used in traditional medicine for its antiapoptotic and anticarcinogenic properties. In this work, we investigate the effects of safranal, a component of saffron stigmas, in attenuating retinal degeneration in the P23H rat model of autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa. We demonstrate that administration of safranal to homozygous P23H line-3 rats preserves both photoreceptor morphology and number. Electroretinographic recordings showed higher a- and b-wave amplitudes under both photopic and scotopic conditions in safranal-treated versus non-treated animals. Furthermore, the capillary network in safranal-treated animals was preserved, unlike that found in untreated animals. Our findings indicate that dietary supplementation with safranal slows photoreceptor cell degeneration and ameliorates the loss of retinal function and vascular network disruption in P23H rats. This work also suggests that safranal could be potentially useful to retard retinal degeneration in patients with retinitis pigmentosa.

Concepts: Minoan civilization, Iridaceae, Picrocrocin, Crocus, Safranal, Retina, Saffron, Retinitis pigmentosa


Smooth pursuit eye movements (SPEM) are needed to keep the retinal image of slowly moving objects within the fovea. Depending on the task, about 50%-80% of patients with schizophrenia have difficulties in maintaining SPEM. We designed a study that comprised different target velocities as well as testing for internal (extraretinal) guidance of SPEM in the absence of a visual target. We applied event-related fMRI by presenting four velocities (5, 10, 15, 20°/s) both with and without intervals of target blanking. 17 patients and 16 healthy participants were included. Eye movements were registered during scanning sessions. Statistical analysis included mixed ANOVAs and regression analyses of the target velocity on the Blood Oxygen Level Dependency (BOLD) signal. The main effect group and the interaction of velocity×group revealed reduced activation in V5 and putamen but increased activation of cerebellar regions in patients. Regression analysis showed that activation in supplementary eye field, putamen, and cerebellum was not correlated to target velocity in patients in contrast to controls. Furthermore, activation in V5 and in intraparietal sulcus (putative LIP) bilaterally was less strongly correlated to target velocity in patients than controls. Altered correlation of target velocity and neural activation in the cortical network supporting SPEM (V5, SEF, LIP, putamen) implies impaired transformation of the visual motion signal into an adequate motor command in patients. Cerebellar regions seem to be involved in compensatory mechanisms although cerebellar activity in patients was not related to target velocity.

Concepts: Visual system, Saccade, Oxygen saturation, Smooth pursuit, Velocity, Retina, Statistics, Regression analysis


BACKGROUND: Successful delivery of compounds to the brain and retina is a challenge in the development of therapeutic drugs and imaging agents. This challenge arises because internalization of compounds into the brain and retina is restricted by the blood–brain barrier (BBB) and blood-retinal barrier (BRB), respectively. Simple and reliable in vivo assays are necessary to identify compounds that can easily cross the BBB and BRB. METHODS: We developed six fluorescent indoline derivatives (IDs) and examined their ability to cross the BBB and BRB in zebrafish by in vivo fluorescence imaging. These fluorescent IDs were administered to live zebrafish by immersing the zebrafish larvae at 7–8 days post fertilization in medium containing the ID, or by intracardiac injection. We also examined the effect of multidrug resistance proteins (MRPs) on the permeability of the BBB and BRB to the ID using MK571, a selective inhibitor of MRPs. RESULTS: The permeability of these barriers to fluorescent IDs administered by simple immersion was comparable to when administered by intracardiac injection. Thus, this finding supports the validity of drug administration by simple immersion for the assessment of BBB and BRB permeability to fluorescent IDs. Using this zebrafish model, we demonstrated that the length of the methylene chain in these fluorescent IDs significantly affected their ability to cross the BBB and BRB via MRPs. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated that in vivo assessment of the permeability of the BBB and BRB to fluorescent IDs could be simply and reliably performed using zebrafish. The structure of fluorescent IDs can be flexibly modified and, thus, the permeability of the BBB and BRB to a large number of IDs can be assessed using this zebrafish-based assay. The large amount of data acquired might be useful for in silico analysis to elucidate the precise mechanisms underlying the interactions between chemical structure and the efflux transporters at the BBB and BRB. In turn, understanding these mechanisms may lead to the efficient design of compounds targeting the brain and retina.

Concepts: Fluorescence, Chemical compound, Intracardiac injection, Zebrafish, Brain, In vivo, Injection, Retina


The GUCY2D gene encodes retinal membrane guanylyl cyclase (RetGC1), a key component of the phototransduction machinery in photoreceptors. Mutations in GUCY2D cause Leber congenital amaurosis type 1 (LCA1), an autosomal recessive human retinal blinding disease. The effects of RetGC1 deficiency on human rod and cone photoreceptor structure and function are currently unknown. To move LCA1 closer to clinical trials, we characterized a cohort of patients (ages 6 mos - 37 yrs) with GUCY2D mutations. In vivo analyses of retinal architecture indicated intact rod photoreceptors in all patients but abnormalities in foveal cones. By functional phenotype, there were patients with and those without detectable cone vision. Rod vision could be retained and did not correlate with extent of cone vision or age. In patients without cone vision, rod vision functioned unsaturated under bright ambient illumination. In vitro analyses of the mutant alleles showed that in addition to the major truncation of the essential catalytic domain in RetGC1, some missense mutations in LCA1 patients result in a severe loss of function by inactivating its catalytic activity and/or ability to interact with the activator proteins, GCAPs. The differences in rod sensitivities among patients were not explained by the biochemical properties of the mutants. However, the RetGC1 mutant alleles with remaining biochemical activity in vitro were associated with retained cone vision in vivo. We postulate a relationship between the level of RetGC1 activity and the degree of cone vision abnormality, and argue for cone function being the efficacy outcome in clinical trials of gene augmentation therapy in LCA1.

Concepts: Point mutation, Blindness, Allele, GUCY2D, Retina, Leber's congenital amaurosis, Photoreceptor cell, Mutation