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News Release 10-181

Mapping Color Vision in HD

Researchers use hi-res detector to map neural circuits of the retina

Illustration of the retinal readout system that allows recording of signals from hundreds of cells.

Updated retinal readout system can record signals from hundreds of cells simultaneously.

October 6, 2010

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Eyes are image detectors that can gather many different types of data: light and dark, a rainbow of colors--even motion. Researchers know that many different cell types in the retina are involved, but they aren't sure how many there are, what they all do, or how they are connected together.

The NSF-supported research of high energy physicist Alan Litke, carried out in an interdisciplinary, international collaboration of physicists, neurobiologists and experts in nanofabrication, is starting to provide answers to some of these questions. Using a tiny, multi-electrode retinal readout system inspired by detector technologies that physicists are using to search for the Higgs Boson, scientists discovered a new cell type in 2007. Now, using an even more fine-grained version of the technology, they have mapped out the functional connections between populations of retinal cells.

The new study, published in the Oct. 7, 2010, issue of the journal Nature, describes neural circuits at the resolution of individual neurons, and the neural code used by the retina to relay color information to the brain. Additional details are available in the press release from the Salk Institute.


Media Contacts
Lisa Van Pay, NSF, (703) 292-8796, email:
Kat Kearney, Salk Institute, (858) 453-4100, email:

Program Contacts
Krastan B. Blagoev, NSF, (703) 292-4666, email:

Alan Litke, University of California at Santa Cruz, 011-41-22-767 7376, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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