Multiplexing Visual Signals in the Suprachiasmatic Nuclei

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The suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), the site of the mammalian circadian (daily) pacemaker, contains thousands of interconnected neurons, some of which receive direct retinal input. Here, we study the fast (<1 s) responses of SCN neurons to visual stimuli with a large-scale mathematical model tracking the ionic currents and voltage of all SCN neurons. We reconstruct the SCN network connectivity and reject 99.99% of theoretically possible SCN networks by requiring that the model reproduces experimentally determined receptive fields of SCN neurons. The model shows how the SCN neuronal network can enhance circadian entrainment by sensitizing a population of neurons in the ventral SCN to irradiance. This SCN network also increases the spatial acuity of neurons and increases the accuracy of a simulated subconscious spatial visual task. We hypothesize that much of the fast electrical activity within the SCN is related to the processing of spatial information. Stinchcombe et al. use a mathematical model to show that the suprachiasmatic nuclei receives and processes spatial information to improve the performance of visual tasks, expanding the function assigned to this brain region.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1418-1425
Number of pages8
JournalCell Reports
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2017