The existence and functional relevance of efferent optic nerve fibers in mammals have long been debated. While anatomical evidence for cortico-retinal and retino-retinal projections is substantial, physiological evidence is lacking, as efferent fibers are few in number and are severed in studies of excised retinal tissue. Here we show that interocular connections contribute to retinal bioelectrical activity in adult mammals. Full-field flash electroretinograms (ERGs) were recorded from one or both eyes of Brown-Norway rats under dark-adapted (n = 16) and light-adapted (n = 11) conditions. Flashes were confined to each eye by an opaque tube that blocked stray light. Monocular flashes evoked a small (5–15 μV) signal in the nonilluminated eye, which was named “crossed ERG” (xERG). The xERG began under dark-adapted conditions with a positive (xP1) wave that peaked at 70–90 ms and ended with slower negative (xN1) and positive (xP2) waves from 200 to 400 ms. xN1 was absent under light-adapted conditions. Injection of tetrodotoxin in either eye (n = 15) eliminated the xERG. Intraocular pressure elevation of the illuminated eye (n = 6) had the same effect. The treatments also altered the ERG b-wave in both eyes, and the alterations correlated with xERG disappearance. Optic nerve stimulation (n = 3) elicited a biphasic compound action potential in the nonstimulated nerve with 10- to 13-ms latency, implying that the xERG comes from slow-conducting (W type) fibers. Monocular dye application (n = 7) confirmed the presence of retino-retinal ganglion cells in adult rats. We conclude that mammalian eyes communicate directly with each other via a handful of optic nerve fibers. The cross talk alters retinal activity in rats, and perhaps other animals.
- centrifugal fibers
- retino-retinal projection
- retinopetal fibers
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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