Melanopsin-expressing ganglion cells in primate retina signal colour and irradiance and project to the LGN

Dennis M. Dacey, Hsi Wen Liao, Beth B. Peterson, Farrel R. Robinson, Vivianne C. Smith, Joel Pokomy, King Wai Yau, Paul D. Gamlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Human vision starts with the activation of rod photoreceptors in dim light and short (S)-, medium (M)-, and long (L)- wavelength-sensitive cone photoreceptors in daylight. Recently a parallel, non-rod, non-cone photoreceptive pathway, arising from a population of retinal ganglion cells, was discovered in nocturnal rodents. These ganglion cells express the putative photopigment melanopsin and by signalling gross changes in light intensity serve the subconscious, 'non-image-forming' functions of circadian photoentrainment and pupil constriction. Here we show an anatomically distinct population of 'giant', melanopsin-expressing ganglion cells in the primate retina that, in addition to being intrinsically photosensitive, are strongly activated by rods and cones, and display a rare, S-Off, (L + M)-On type of colour-opponent receptive field. The intrinsic, rod and (L + M) cone-derived light responses combine in these giant cells to signal irradiance over the full dynamic range of human vision. In accordance with cone-based colour opponency, the giant cells project to the lateral geniculate nucleus, the thalamic relay to primary visual cortex. Thus, in the diurnal trichromatic primate, 'non-image-forming' and conventional 'image-forming' retinal pathways are merged, and the melanopsin-based signal might contribute to conscious visual perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)749-754
Number of pages6
JournalNature
Volume433
Issue number7027
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 17 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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