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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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.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 U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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