Every waking moment we piece together all manner of visual cues – colour, contrast, motion – allowing us to complete a range of tasks. Different groups of nerve cells in the eyes called retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are responsible for sending different kinds of visual information to nerve cells in the brain called thalamic relay cells (TRCs). Researchers investigate this pathway using mutant mice lacking the protein LRRTM1, found at connections between these nerve cells. 3D modelling the nerve cells (pictured) based on scanning electron microscopy images revealed that mice lacking LRRTM1 (right) failed to form complex synapses between RGCs (multicoloured) and TRCs (cyan), compared with normal mice (left). Mutant mice were also unable to complete tasks involving processing of multiple visual cues. Connecting up RGCs and TRCs correctly therefore appears to be key for mice – and so perhaps other mammals – to properly perceive the world around them.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
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