Volume 10 Supplement 1
How is stimulus processing of the lateral geniculate nucleus derived from its input(s)?
© Butts and Casti; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2009
Published: 13 July 2009
LGN neurons can respond with extreme precision to a variety of temporally varying stimuli . This precision requires non-linear processing of the stimulus and therefore cannot be described by standard linear (or linear-non-linear, LN) models. Rather, in previous work, we have found that precision arises through the interplay of an excitatory receptive field and a similarly tuned – but delayed – suppressive receptive field, allowing for fine time scales in the LGN response to arise in the brief window where excitation exceeds the suppression . However, it is not clear whether such non-linear interaction arises in the retina, at the retinogeniculate synapse itself or involves other secondary LGN inputs.
To investigate this, we applied a newly developed a Generalized Non-Linear Modeling (GNLM) framework to data involving the simultaneous recording of LGN neurons and their predominant retinal ganglion cell (RGC) input. This framework uses efficient maximum-likelihood optimization , adapted to include nested non-linear terms [2, 4]. Using this novel approach, we simultaneously optimize the shape of postsynaptic currents resulting from RGC stimulation along with other non-linear excitatory and inhibitory elements tuned to the visual stimulus, based on the observed RGC and LGN spike trains alone. We also can directly characterize the non-linear elements in the RGC.
We found that while there were subtle non-linear elements in the RGC response, they were amplified in that of the LGN. Consistent with previous reports , summation with a threshold explains a large part of the increased sparseness of LGN responses relative to those of the input RGC. However, an additional opposite-sign suppressive term was also present, possibly contributing to the push-pull nature of the LGN response observed in intracellular recordings . In many cases, we also detected additional non-linear excitatory inputs, possibly resulting from other RGC inputs. Interestingly, such additional terms were much more sensitive to contrast than the dominant input, possible resulting in the well-known contrast gain control effects, though present both at the level of the retina and LGN.
Thus, the GNLM modeling methods reveal how non-linear computation performed is performed the RG synapse, and allows for more general characterization of non-linear computation throughout the visual pathway.
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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd.