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The detection of approaching objects, such as looming predators, is necessary for survival. Which neurons and circuits mediate this function? We combined genetic labeling of cell types, two-photon microscopy, electrophysiology and theoretical modeling to address this question. We identify an approach-sensitive ganglion cell type in the mouse retina, resolve elements of its afferent neural circuit, and describe how these confer approach sensitivity on the ganglion cell. The circuit's essential building block is a rapid inhibitory pathway: it selectively suppresses responses to non-approaching objects. This rapid inhibitory pathway, which includes AII amacrine cells connected to bipolar cells through electrical synapses, was previously described in the context of night-time vision. In the daytime conditions of our experiments, the same pathway conveys signals in the reverse direction. The dual use of a neural pathway in different physiological conditions illustrates the efficiency with which several functions can be accommodated in a single circuit.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/nn.2389

Type

Journal article

Journal

Nat neurosci

Publication Date

10/2009

Volume

12

Pages

1308 - 1316

Keywords

Action Potentials, Animals, Biotin, Computer Simulation, Connexins, Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists, Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials, Green Fluorescent Proteins, Luminescent Proteins, Mice, Mice, Transgenic, Models, Neurological, Motion Perception, Nerve Net, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Neural Inhibition, Neurons, Patch-Clamp Techniques, Photic Stimulation, Piperazines, Quinoxalines, Retina, Visual Fields, Visual Pathways