Spatial receptive fields in the retina and dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of mice lacking rods and cones

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In advanced retinal degeneration loss of rods and cones leaves melanopsin-expressing intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) as the only source of visual information. ipRGCs drive non-image-forming responses (e.g., circadian photoentrainment) under such conditions but, despite projecting to the primary visual thalamus [dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN)], do not support form vision. We wished to determine what precludes ipRGCs supporting spatial discrimination after photoreceptor loss, using a mouse model (rd/rd cl) lacking rods and cones. Using multielectrode arrays, we found that both RGCs and neurons in the dLGN of this animal have clearly delineated spatial receptive fields. In the retina, they are typically symmetrical, lack inhibitory surrounds, and have diameters in the range of 10–30° of visual space. Receptive fields in the dLGN were larger (diameters typically 30–70°) but matched the retinotopic map of the mouse dLGN. Injections of a neuroanatomical tracer (cholera toxin β-subunit) into the dLGN confirmed that retinotopic order of ganglion cell projections to the dLGN and thalamic projections to the cortex is at least superficially intact in rd/rd cl mice. However, as previously reported for deafferented ipRGCs, onset and offset of light responses have long latencies in the rd/rd cl retina and dLGN. Accordingly, dLGN neurons failed to track dynamic changes in light intensity in this animal. Our data reveal that ipRGCs can convey spatial information in advanced retinal degeneration and identify their poor temporal fidelity as the major limitation in their ability to provide information about spatial patterns under natural viewing conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1321-1330
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


  • dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus
  • melanopsin
  • retinal degeneration
  • spatial receptive fields


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