Antagonistic Center-Surround Mechanisms for Direction Selectivity in the Retina

Lea Ankri, Elishai Ezra-Tsur, Shir R. Maimon, Nathali Kaushansky, Michal Rivlin-Etzion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An antagonistic center-surround receptive field is a key feature in sensory processing, but how it contributes to specific computations such as direction selectivity is often unknown. Retinal On-starburst amacrine cells (SACs), which mediate direction selectivity in direction-selective ganglion cells (DSGCs), exhibit antagonistic receptive field organization: depolarizing to light increments and decrements in their center and surround, respectively. We find that a repetitive stimulation exhausts SAC center and enhances its surround and use it to study how center-surround responses contribute to direction selectivity. Center, but not surround, activation induces direction-selective responses in SACs. Nevertheless, both SAC center and surround elicited direction-selective responses in DSGCs, but to opposite directions. Physiological and modeling data suggest that the opposing direction selectivity can result from inverted temporal balance between excitation and inhibition in DSGCs, implying that SAC's response timing dictates direction selectivity. Our findings reveal antagonistic center-surround mechanisms for direction selectivity and demonstrate how context-dependent receptive field reorganization enables flexible computations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107608
JournalCell Reports
Issue number5
StatePublished - 5 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s)


  • antagonistic center-surround
  • direction selective ganglion cells
  • direction selectivity
  • excitatory-inhibitory balance
  • neural circuits
  • neural computation
  • receptive field
  • retina
  • starburst amacrine cells
  • visual processing


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