Visual information processing starts in the retina. This thin neuronal tissue lining the back of the eyeball does not only convert the incoming stream of photons into electrical signals, but critically performs a detailed and highly specific analysis of the observed scene. Therefore, the retina can be considered a highly specialized and sophisticated image processor.
All visual information sent from the retina to the brain travels through the optic nerve, the main bottleneck of the visual system - therefore prior to transmission to the brain, important aspects of the visual scene (e.g. contrast, brightness, "colour", edges, motion and its direction, edges and trajectories of potential objects, etc.) must be extracted and compressed. The importance of retinal signal processing is highlighted by the fact that this important decision - what information is relevant and therefore kept, and what can be safely discarded - is made already in the retina.
The computational capabilities of its intricate but highly defined neuronal network rely on about 70 types of neurons organized in a plethora of interconnected microcircuits. Our work aims at unravelling function and organization of retinal microcircuits towards a better understanding of the underlying computational principles. Furthermore, we are interested in the mechanisms that implement retinal microcircuits during development and how microcircuits change during retinal degeneration.
Please see also our pages at the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN).
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