Modelling spontaneous propagating waves in the early retina

Dora Matzakos-Karvouniari
LJAD, Université Côte d'Azur, Campus Valrose

During early retina development, waves of activity propagate across the retina and play a key role in building the early visual system. In vertebrates species, upon maturation and before eye-opening, transient networks of cells generate these waves, characterized by $3$ consecutive stages. Here, we focus on the biophysical detailed modelling of the second stage (stage II), during which waves are controlled by directly interconnected specific cells, the cholinergic starburst amacrine cells (SACs) which are able to burst autonomously. We propose plausible underlying mechanisms for: i) waves generation at the single neuron level, ii) propagation at the network level in a landscape marked by previous waves prints and iii) waves termination. Based on a bifurcation analysis we show how biophysical parameters control retinal waves characteristics and we provide a theoretical condition for waves propagation and disappearance. Moreover, we show that the continuous decrease of the strength of the acetylcholine synaptic coupling, associated with the crossing of a synchronization transition, impacts dramatically the waves distribution. We report especially on the existence of power law distributions of the avalanche size not only at the synchronization threshold, but also for a whole range of coupling strength. This may play a key role in the ability of the retina to respond to visual stimuli by maximizing its dynamical range.