Dorsal raphe nucleus projecting retinal ganglion cells: Why Y cells?

Gary E. Pickard, Kwok Fai So, Mingliang Pu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Retinal ganglion Y (alpha) cells are found in retinas ranging from frogs to mice to primates. The highly conserved nature of the large, fast conducting retinal Y cell is a testament to its fundamental task, although precisely what this task is remained ill-defined. The recent discovery that Y-alpha retinal ganglion cells send axon collaterals to the serotonergic dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) in addition to the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), medial interlaminar nucleus (MIN), pretectum and the superior colliculus (SC) has offered new insights into the important survival tasks performed by these cells with highly branched axons. We propose that in addition to its role in visual perception, the Y-alpha retinal ganglion cell provides concurrent signals via axon collaterals to the DRN, the major source of serotonergic afferents to the forebrain, to dramatically inhibit 5-HT activity during orientation or alerting/escape responses, which dis-facilitates ongoing tonic motor activity while dis-inhibiting sensory information processing throughout the visual system. The new data provide a fresh view of these evolutionarily old retinal ganglion cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-131
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Alpha cells
  • Dorsal raphe nucleus
  • Retinal ganglion cells
  • Y cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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