Development of the vertebrate retinal direction-selective circuit

Natalie R. Hamilton, Andrew J. Scasny, Alex L. Kolodkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The vertebrate retina contains an array of neural circuits that detect distinct features in visual space. Direction-selective (DS) circuits are an evolutionarily conserved retinal circuit motif – from zebrafish to rodents to primates – specialized for motion detection. During retinal development, neuronal subtypes that wire DS circuits form exquisitely precise connections with each other to shape the output of retinal ganglion cells tuned for specific speeds and directions of motion. In this review, we follow the chronology of DS circuit development in the vertebrate retina, including the cellular, molecular, and activity-dependent mechanisms that regulate the formation of DS circuits, from cell birth and migration to synapse formation and refinement. We highlight recent findings that identify genetic programs critical for specifying neuronal subtypes within DS circuits and molecular interactions essential for responses along the cardinal axes of motion. Finally, we discuss the roles of DS circuits in visual behavior and in certain human visual disease conditions. As one of the best-characterized circuits in the vertebrate retina, DS circuits represent an ideal model system for studying the development of neural connectivity at the level of individual genes, cells, and behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-283
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental biology
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Circuit
  • Direction selectivity
  • Retina
  • Visual system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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