Direct retino-raphe projection alters serotonergic tone and affective behavior

Chaoran Ren, Liju Luan, Benson Wui-Man Lau, Xin Huang, Jian Yang, Yuan Zhou, Xihong Wu, Jie Gao, Gary E. Pickard, Kwok Fai So, Mingliang Pu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Light is a powerful modulator of higher-order cognitive processes such as mood but it remains unclear which neural circuits mediate the impact of light on affective behavior. We found that light deprivation produces a depressive-like behavioral state that is reversed by activation of direct retinal signals to the serotonergic dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) in a manner equivalent to treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine. Surprisingly, the DRN-projecting retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are indistinguishable from the classic alpha/Y-like RGC type that contributes to image-forming visual pathways. Silencing RGC firing or specific immunotoxin ablation of DRN-projecting RGCs increased depressive-like behavior and reduced serotonin levels in the DRN. Serotonin has a key role in the pathophysiology of depression, and these results demonstrate that retino-raphe signals modulate DRN serotonergic tone and affective behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1175
Number of pages13
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • SSRI
  • affective visual information
  • depression
  • dorsal raphe nucleus
  • retinal ganglion cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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