Understanding how neural systems are connected is a neuroscience grand challenge. The neural circuits in retina detect and process light information, then relay that information to the brain for further processing; the retina, therefore, provides a unique opportunity to understand how the brain processes information. Bryan Jones, PhD, and colleagues used electron microscopes to visualize the chemical and electrical synaptic connections that makes up the neural network. They further observed, in a transgenic rabbit model of early retinal degeneration, abnormal connectivity in the rod-photoreceptor network and novel synaptic connections derived from sprouting.
These findings advanced understanding of retinal neuronal connections, the role of aberrant neuronal retinal wiring in blindness, and the potential development of new therapies to slow or reverse blindness. Since retinal wiring changes are analogous to other wiring changes within the brain, the retina also provides a more readily-accessible model to study other neural degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. This work may also inform the development of new computational algorithms to improve artificial intelligence.
Network architecture of gap junctional coupling among parallel processing channels in the mammalian retina. Sigulinsky CL, Anderson JR, Kerzner E, Rapp CN, Pfeiffer RL, Rodman TM, Emrich DP, Rapp KD, Nelson NT, Lauritzen JS, Meyer M, Marc RE, Jones BW. J. Neurosci. 2020 June 3;40(23):4483. PMID: 32332119 PMCID: PMC7275861
A pathoconnectome of early neurodegeneration: Network changes in retinal degeneration. Pfeiffer RL, Anderson JR, Dahal J, Garcia JC, Yang J-H, Sigulinsky CL, Rapp K, Emrich DP, Watt CB, Johnstun HAB, Houser AR, Marc RE, Jones BW. Exp Eye Res. 2020 October;199:108196. PMID: 32810483 PMCID: PMC7554222