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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Synchrony and concerted activity in the neural code of the retina

  • Author(s): Shlens, Jonathon
  • et al.

All visual information the brain receives originates in the electrical activity of a final layer of cells in the retina, termed retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). The electrical activity of RGCs constitute the language neurons use to communicate sensory information, constraining computations performed by the nervous system and illuminating how information is represented in the brain more generally. The electrical activity across RGCs is known to be correlated, reflecting circuitry internal to the retina and thus influencing how visual information is conveyed from the eye to the brain. Over the last few years the research compiled in this dissertation provide the first reports of concerted activity, such as synchrony, in primate RGCs. Furthermore, with the development of new recording technologies, this work has explored the spatial and numerical scale of concerted activity in the primate retina with the ultimate goal of discerning it's role in the signaling of visual information. In the process new quantitative tools exploiting ideas from statistics and information theory have been developed to explore such questions with the hope that such work can be extended to understand the activity of neural systems more generally. The following dissertation is largely comprised of three main parts corresponding to three published or forthcoming works. The first four chapters as well as the conclusions are largely taken from an invited book chapter of the same title. Chapter 5 consists of published material that provided one of the first accounts of concerted activity as well as introduced many quantitative tools exploited to successfully explain such activity. Chapter 6 is a first draft of a forthcoming publication extending previous work to explore the concerted activity of an entire population of RGCs

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