04 December 2013
Seeing is fundamental to life, and the brain knows it. Before the eyes open for the first time, the brain has already prepared itself for the onslaught of visual information that it’s about to receive. In utero, waves of electricity travel spontaneously from the developing eyes to the brain along nerves known as the visual pathway. Scientists have used calcium imaging to watch their flow in prenatal mice. This video shows waves (as flashes of bright green) that have travelled from the retina to the superior colliculus, a structure in the visual pathway. The researchers were able to track how these electrical ripples behave and how they eventually reach the brain. They suggest that retinal waves are most likely present in human foetal development as well, and may carry the information that will wire our brain up for vision.
Written by Gaëlle Coullon
Image by James Ackman, Timothy Burbridge and Micheal Criair
Yale University School of Medicine, USA
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature 2013
Research published in Nature, October 2012