Amacrine cell functions

About amacrine cell functions

Amacrine cells are a type of neuron found in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the human eye. They play a critical role in the processing of visual signals before these signals are sent to the brain.

Amacrine cells are known to contribute to narrowly task-specific visual functions such as:

  • Spatial Contrast Enhancement: Amacrine cells contribute to a process called lateral inhibition, which helps to enhance the contrast between light and dark areas in a visual scene, thereby improving our ability to see edges and borders.
  • Temporal Contrast Enhancement: Amacrine cells play a role in detecting changes in light intensity over time, which helps us to perceive motion and changes in a visual scene.
  • Direction Selectivity: Certain types of amacrine cells are involved in detecting the direction of moving objects. These are known as starburst amacrine cells.
  • Centre-surround antagonism: Amacrine cells interact with both bipolar cells and retinal ganglion cells to contribute to the centre-surround antagonistic structure of ganglion cell receptive fields.
  • Complex Visual Processing: Amacrine cells form connections with multiple types of retinal cells, including bipolar cells and ganglion cells. This allows them to participate in complex processing and integration of visual information.
  • Inhibitory Signalling: Many amacrine cells arstae inhibitory interneurons, which means they can inhibit the activity of other neurons. This inhibitory function plays a role in shaping the output of retinal ganglion cells, which send visual information to the brain.
  • Regulation of Circadian Rhythm: Some amacrine cells release a pigment called melanopsin and are involved in non-image-forming visual functions, such as the regulation of circadian rhythms and the pupillary light reflex.
  • Neurotransmitter Release: Amacrine cells can release a variety of neurotransmitters, including GABA, glycine, dopamine, and others, allowing them to modulate the activity of various neural circuits in the retina.