Statistical Wiring of Thalamic Receptive Fields Optimizes Spatial Sampling of the Retinal Image
It is widely assumed that mosaics of retinal ganglion cells establish the optimal representation of visual space. However, relay cells in the visual thalamus often receive convergent input from several retinal afferents and, in cat, outnumber ganglion cells. To explore how the thalamus transforms the retinal image, we built a model of the retinothalamic circuit using experimental data and simple wiring rules. The model shows how the thalamus might form a resampled map of visual space with the potential to facilitate detection of stimulus position in the presence of sensor noise. Bayesian decoding conducted with the model provides support for this scenario. Despite its benefits, however, resampling introduces image blur, thus impairing edge perception. Whole-cell recordings obtained in vivo suggest that this problem is mitigated by arrangements of excitation and inhibition within the receptive field that effectively boost contrast borders, much like strategies used in digital image processing.