The adaptive field and information storage in the retina
The retina, the first stage of neural processing in the visual system, has proven to be an excellent neural circuit for understanding various sophisticated computations that are necessary for neural function. However, information storage is a computation that is not known to exist in the retina, even though visual processing greatly benefits from information storage. We show that the retina can perform information storage. Ganglion cells, the output neurons of the retina, store information by manipulating their sensitivity. We observe the change in sensitivity by measuring the adaptive field of ganglion cells, which is the region of space that changes the sensitivity of a cell. Sensitization, an increase in sensitivity following a strong stimulus, underlies a ganglion cell’s ability to store information. We model sensitization using processing known to exist in the retina. The model predicts a necessary role for inhibition in sensitization, a prediction shown to be true by pharmacologically blocking inhibitory transmission in the retina.