Zapping the Retina - Understanding electrical responsiveness and electrical desensitization in mouse retinal ganglion cells

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Dokumentart: Dissertation
Date: 2020-07-16
Source: Chapter 2: Optimal voltage stimulation parameters for network-mediated responses in wild type and rd10 mouse retinal ganglion cells, Journal of Neural Engineering, Volume 14, Number 2
Language: English
Faculty: 8 Zentrale, interfakultäre und fakultätsübergreifende Einrichtungen
Department: Interdisziplinäre Einrichtungen
Advisor: Zrenner, Eberhart (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2018-07-13
DDC Classifikation: 570 - Life sciences; biology
Keywords: Netzhaut , Elektrizität , Nervenzelle , Anpassung , Fading
Other Keywords: Desensibilisierung
elektrische Stimulation
microelectrode array
electrical stimulation
optimal stimuli
License: Publishing license including print on demand
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Dissertation ist gesperrt bis 16. Juli 2020 !


The field of science and technology has come a long way since the famous 70’s science fiction series “The Six Million Dollar Man,” where a disabled pilot was transformed into a bionic superhero after receiving artificial implants. What was indeed once a science fiction has now turned into a science fact with the development of various electronic devices interfacing the human neurons in the brain, retina, and limbs. One such advancement was the development of retinal implants. Over the past two decades, the field of retinal prosthetics has made significant advancement in restoring functional vision in patients blinded by diseases such as Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). RP and AMD are the two leading cause of degenerative blindness. While there is still no definitive cure for either of these diseases, various treatment strategies are currently being explored. Of the various options, the most successful one has been the retinal implants. Retinal implants are small microelectrode or photodiode arrays, which are implanted in the eye of a patient, to stimulate the degenerating retina electrically. They are broadly classified into three types depending on the placement ̶ epiretinal (close proximity to retinal ganglion cells, RGCs) , subretinal (close proximity to bipolar cells, BP) and suprachoroidal (close proximity to choroid). While the ongoing human trials have shown promising results, there remains a considerable variability among patients concerning the quality of visual percepts which limits the working potential of these implants. One such limitation often reported by the implanted patients is “ fading” of visual percepts. Fading refers to the limited ability to elicit temporally stable visual percepts. While, this is not a primary concern for epiretinal implants , it is often observed in subretinal and suprachoroidal implants which use the remaining retinal network to control the temporal spiking pattern of the ganglion cells. The neural correlate of fading is often referred to as “electrical desensitization”, which is the reduction of ganglion cell responses to repetitive electrical stimulation . While much is known about the temporal component of desensitization ( time constant, τ), the spatial aspects (space constant, λ) has not been well characterized. Further, how both these aspects interact to generate spiking responses, remains poorly understood. These crucial questions formed the critical components of my thesis. To address these questions, we stimulated the retinal network electrically, with voltage and current pulses and recorded the corresponding spiking activity using the microelectrode arrays (MEAs). While addressing the primary question of my thesis, we were able to address few idiosyncrasies which has currently stymied the field of retinal prosthetics. At a conceptual level, we have developed an experimental and analysis framework by which one can identify the single stimulus that will activate the most ganglion cells (Chapter 2, Part 1). This stimulus is optimal for ‘blind’ experiments where the specific response properties of each cell are unknown. Furthermore, we attempted to understand the correspondence between the electrical response patterns and visual response types (Chapter 2, Part2). In Chapter 3, we sought to understand better how the visual responses parameters change during ongoing electrical stimulation. We demonstrated that apart from the adaptation occurring due to visual stimulation and invitro experimental conditions, the electrical stimulation alters the RGC visual responses, suggesting the requirement for stimulation-induced changes to be incorporated in the designing of stimulation paradigms for the implant. Finally addressing the primary question (Chapter 4) of my thesis with which we started, we were able to demonstrate, that the electrical desensitization requires the interaction of both time and distance and is not a global phenomenon of the retina. In the final chapter (Chapter 5) we summarize the results of the thesis, discuss the key outcomes and its relevance to the prosthetic field and other vision restoration strategies and the potential future directions of this research. Therefore, in future, to improve the efficacy of retinal prostheses and patient outcomes, it is crucial to have an in-depth understanding of the responsiveness of the retinal circuitry to electrical stimulation.

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