From the WUSTL Newsroom…
Driving a car at 40 mph, you see a child dart into the street. You hit the brakes. Disaster averted.
But how did your eyes detect that movement? It’s a question that has confounded scientists.
Now, studying mice, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have an answer: A neural circuit in the retina at the back of the eye carries signals that enable the eye to detect movement. The finding could help in efforts to build artificial retinas for people who have suffered vision loss.
The research is published June 16 in the online journal eLife.
The research team identified specific cell types that form a neural circuit to carry signals from the eye’s photoreceptors — the rods and cones that sense light — to the brain’s visual cortex, where those signals are translated into an image.
“This ability to detect motion is key for animals, allowing them to detect the presence of predators,” said principal investigator Daniel Kerschensteiner, MD, an assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences. “And we know that these same cells are found not only in mice but in rabbits, cats, primates and likely humans, too. The cells look similar in every species, and we would assume they function in a similar manner as well.”
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