Selectivity to approaching motion in retinal inputs to the dorsal visual pathway

  1. Todd R Appleby
  2. Michael B Manookin  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Washington, United States


A central function of many neural circuits is to rapidly extract salient information from sensory inputs. Detecting approaching motion is an example of a challenging computational task that is important for avoiding threats and navigating through the environment. Here, we report that detection of approaching motion begins at the earliest stages of visual processing in primates. Several ganglion cell types, the retinal output neurons, show selectivity to approaching motion. Synaptic current recordings from these cells further reveal that this preference for approaching motion arises in the interplay between presynaptic excitatory and inhibitory circuit elements. These findings demonstrate how excitatory and inhibitory circuits interact to mediate an ethologically relevant neural function. They further indicate that the elementary computations that detect approaching motion begin early in the visual stream of primates.

Data availability

We have made the population data in the study freely available. Source data files have been provided for Figures 1, 6, and 7.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Todd R Appleby

    Neuroscience Graduate Program, Department of Ophthalmolgy, University of Washington, Seattle, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Michael B Manookin

    Department of Ophthalmology, University of Washington, Seattle, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-8116-7619


National Eye Institute (R01-EY027323)

  • Michael B Manookin

National Eye Institute (R01-EY029247)

  • Michael B Manookin

National Eye Institute (P30-EY001730)

  • Michael B Manookin

National Institutes of Health (P51 OD-010425)

  • Michael B Manookin

Research to Prevent Blindness

  • Michael B Manookin

Alcon Research Institute

  • Michael B Manookin

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Animal experimentation: All procedures were approved by the University of Washington Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC protocol #4277-01).

Reviewing Editor

  1. Markus Meister, California Institute of Technology, United States

Version history

  1. Received: August 16, 2019
  2. Accepted: February 18, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: February 24, 2020 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: March 18, 2020 (version 2)


© 2020, Appleby & Manookin

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Todd R Appleby
  2. Michael B Manookin
Selectivity to approaching motion in retinal inputs to the dorsal visual pathway
eLife 9:e51144.

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