Research Topic

Assembly and Function of the Visual System

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Animals navigate their environments while being bombarded constantly with diverse sensory stimuli. In order to do so, their nervous systems must encode sensory information and interpret it in order to render appropriate behavioral responses. While understanding the structure and function of the brain is a ...

Animals navigate their environments while being bombarded constantly with diverse sensory stimuli. In order to do so, their nervous systems must encode sensory information and interpret it in order to render appropriate behavioral responses. While understanding the structure and function of the brain is a daunting task, the visual system provides a simpler microcosm of many of the broader questions faced by neurobiology. Although there are fewer cell types than in the central brain, visual systems detect and encode sensory stimuli while preserving important features of sensory input, such as topographic organization. Thus, many aspects central to neurobiology can be studied in the visual system, and can help to provide clarity to the broader field.

The first challenge is to understand how a complex structure such as a visual system can be built. This involves steps such as assigning neural identity to naive cells (fate determination), regulating the proliferation of progenitors to generate the correct number of photoreceptors and neurons, and assembling circuits from photoreceptors to processing centers and to the central brain (axon guidance/target recognition). Of particular interest is understanding how ‘retinotopy’, or the 1:1 correspondence of a given a point in the visual field to a specific point in the central nervous system, is established during circuit assembly. Finally, the visual system provides us with a unique system within which to test various theoretical models of neural circuit function and leads us to greater understanding of how neural circuits are able to integrate inputs and process such information.

This Research Topic is intended to cover past and current directions in research dedicated to the assembly and function of visual systems including but not limited to the generation of neuronal diversity, wiring, connectivity and function. We welcome original and review articles, as well as theoretical, opinion, methods, and modeling papers from both model and non-model systems.


Keywords: Visual systems, retinotopy, neuronal diversity, motion detection


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