Despite its prominent placement between the retina and primary visual cortex in the early visual pathway, the role of the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) in molding and regulating the visual signals entering the brain is still poorly understood. A striking feature of the dLGN circuit is that relay cells (RCs) and interneurons (INs) form so-called triadic synapses, where an IN dendritic terminal can be simultaneously postsynaptic to a retinal ganglion cell (GC) input and presynaptic to an RC dendrite, allowing for so-called triadic inhibition. Taking advantage of a recently developed biophysically detailed multicompartmental model for an IN, we here investigate putative effects of these different inhibitory actions of INs, i.e., triadic inhibition and standard axonal inhibition, on the response properties of RCs. We compute and investigate so-called area-response curves, that is, trial-averaged visual spike responses vs. spot size, for circular flashing spots in a network of RCs and INs. The model parameters are grossly tuned to give results in qualitative accordance with previous in vivo data of responses to such stimuli for cat GCs and RCs. We particularly investigate how the model ingredients affect salient response properties such as the receptive-field center size of RCs and INs, maximal responses and center-surround antagonisms. For example, while triadic inhibition not involving firing of IN action potentials was found to provide only a non-linear gain control of the conversion of input spikes to output spikes by RCs, axonal inhibition was in contrast found to substantially affect the receptive-field center size: the larger the inhibition, the more the RC center size shrinks compared to the GC providing the feedforward excitation. Thus, a possible role of the different inhibitory actions from INs to RCs in the dLGN circuit is to provide separate mechanisms for overall gain control (direct triadic inhibition) and regulation of spatial resolution (axonal inhibition) of visual signals sent to cortex.
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