The center-surround organization of the receptive fields (RFs) of retinal ganglion cells highlights the presence of local contrast in visual stimuli. As RF of thalamic relay cells follow the same basic functional organization, it is often assumed that they contribute very little to alter the retinal output. However, in many species, thalamic relay cells largely outnumber their retinal inputs, which diverge to contact simultaneously several units at thalamic level. This gain in cell population as well as retinothalamic convergence opens the door to question how information about contrast is transformed at the thalamic stage. Here, we address this question using a realistic dynamic model of the retinothalamic circuit. Our results show that different components of the thalamic RF might implement filters that are analogous to two types of well-known image processing techniques to preserve the quality of a higher resolution version of the image on its way to the primary visual cortex.
Keywords: LGN, Visual neuroscience, contrast, push–pull circuit, retina, retinothalamic circuit, sharpness, spiking model