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Cells In the Retina Tile Like Puzzle Pieces

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the rather-than-scrabble-tiles dept.

Biotech 29

tim writes "Recent work at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. shows that cells in the retina sample visual space like a multi-layered jigsaw puzzle. High resolution measurements of light response reveal that individual cells have irregular shapes, but together their shapes coordinate to tightly cover visual space. This type of large scale, exquisite coordination could be a general organizing principle of the brain, but no one has seen it previously because technical obstacles typically prevent recording from large cell populations." Here's a link to full paper.

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first post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27506229)

that's right

Puzzle Pieces (3, Informative)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27506329)

Fits together like puzzle pieces? I think the dames call it "Tessalation"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tessellation [wikipedia.org]

Re:Puzzle Pieces (2, Funny)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27506481)

I would suggest that anybody with a serious case of OCD stay away from that page.

Re:Puzzle Pieces (2)

Mozk (844858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27508613)

I suggest that they stay [wikipedia.org] away [wikipedia.org] from these [wikipedia.org] pages as well.

So do other types of cells (0, Offtopic)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27506411)

I cannot see the big breakthrough here. For example, the corneal endothelium [wikipedia.org] also fits like a puzzle. The cells are responsible for pumping water out of the cornea. That only works properly when all cells coordinate to cover the entire back-surface. When a cell dies, then other cells will migrate and change shape to fill the gap. Cells do die as cell concentration decreases with age.

Re:So do other types of cells (0, Offtopic)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27506437)

Cells do die as cell concentration decreases with age.

And also because I dump them in the hundreds of millions into my toilet after a wanking session.

Re:So do other types of cells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27506659)

I suppose this explains the connection between wanking and going blind then. ;)

Re:So do other types of cells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27509261)

I suppose this explains the connection between wanking and going blind then. ;)

No I don't examine, correct, walk and bind them, who said that?

/ aliquis

Re:So do other types of cells (5, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27506589)

I think the breakthrough here is not that the cells themselves fit together but that the individual fields they each sense are coordinated. Like one cell type senses a field that is circle shaped, the one right next to it, if it sensed a circle, would have overlap and would cause imaging problems, instead the cell right next to it senses a crescent shape, fitting with the one next to it to avoid overlap.

FTA

These regions fit together like pieces of a puzzle, preventing "blind spot" and excessive overlap that could blur our perception of the world.

How the cells come together is regulated but it still isn't like pixels, the junctions between the cells are not a perfect grid, there are irregularities. The cells compensate for that. I haven't read in depth but that seems to be the gist.

Re:So do other types of cells (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27507265)

How the cells come together is regulated but it still isn't like pixels, the junctions between the cells are not a perfect grid, there are irregularities. The cells compensate for that. I haven't read in depth but that seems to be the gist.

I know you're correct without reading the article, since I've seen the grid of my own optic cells myself in all its organic beauty -- the term 'grid' is still useful if you don't assume straight Cartesian lines separating rows and columns but rather swooping arcs and spirals -- while tripping balls.

Re:So do other types of cells (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27514149)

I got grids of octarine elephants on a sphere rotating around a giant octarine elephant which was rotating the other way, myself.

I'd always wondered about the tiny specks you can see when you look at a solid, bright background for a while, turns out they're white blood cells moving through the vessels that supply your retina. Cool, huh? :)

Re:So do other types of cells (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27514027)

Like one cell type senses a field that is circle shaped, the one right next to it, if it sensed a circle, would have overlap and would cause imaging problems, instead the cell right next to it senses a crescent shape, fitting with the one next to it to avoid overlap.

It looks to me more like a case of "random shaped squishy things squish together with no gaps". I'd say you have cause and effect mixed a little here - the crescent-sensing cells aren't crescent-sensing because they go "there's a circle next to me so I ought to check for crescents to improve the accuracy of the retina as a whole". They go "I'm squished into a crescent shape, so I'll naturally give a stand-out signal when a light pattern the same shape as me shines on me". The interesting question is how the shape of the cell is encoded into the output signal...

Maybe it is like corals (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27506433)

They talk about an exquisite coordination that is finely tuned to prevent blind spots while avoiding overlap.

Perhaps it is more like cells with random variation simply growing outward until reaching a neighboring cell at which point some chemical signaling occurs to establish a mutual border.

Or maybe a time lapse of cell cultures would show an ever changing chemical war fighting over the borders like neighboring corals do.

A system like this should provide maximal coverage with minimal overlap with no exquisite coordination beyond the individual cells.

Re:Maybe it is like corals (3, Insightful)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 5 years ago | (#27508109)

The output cells of the retina use inputs from lots of primary detector cells (rods and cones) through several layers. They also do not fill space, but send slender processes around contacting neighbors.

Whether it's cooperative coordination or some sort of competition, it is exquisite in that this is not something that is obviously easy to coordinate (unlike cells growing in a sheet which tile space because they get in each others' way).

Let the flamewar begin! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27506527)

That sounds so complex, it's almost as if it could only have been created by god. ...

(I'm kidding. Please be gentle!)

Re:Let the flamewar begin! (3, Insightful)

Timberwolf0122 (872207) | more than 5 years ago | (#27506949)

God lives in my pocket, it's the only way I can explain how a simple piece of straight string can tie it's self into such a complex ball of knots, Kent Hovind told me that extra information (such as knots) can't form naturally and adding energy (by say walking) is destructive ergo god is in my pocket tangling all my strings. Bastard.

Re:Let the flamewar begin! (1)

Mozk (844858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27508877)

Honestly, how do earbuds get tangled up into knots so badly after only five minutes in a bag?

Re:Let the flamewar begin! (0, Troll)

labnet (457441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27509257)

You make a valid point.

I've seen teams of engineers use all of their collective intelligence to create systems that are only a fraction of the complexity of mere parts of biological systems, yet all systems tend toward disorder.
So lets say God created Adam and Eve. I would expect that perfect master copy to eventually degrade over time (which is easily evident though genetic disease), but with evoltution, these seems to be this magical sameness about kinds. I would expect much more diversity about a kind (man for example), eg lets say tens of thousands of man type people have monochromatic vision, then one man amazingly develops RGB vision. Well hey thats nice, but not a big enough advantage that I would displace everyone with monovison. Now don't try and pick apart that one example, as the point I expect to see thousands of such expamples of MAJOR differences between one kind that may provide small advantages, but not enough for natural selection.
For example, lets say one man developed telescopic vision today. (These are the sort of major steps evolution proclaims). Sure thats an advantage, so how long before 99% of the population gets telescopic vision.
Then evolution has to say... oh there no evolution anymore we've reached our 'peak' (an excuse).

All systems tend toward disorder.
 

Re:Let the flamewar begin! (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27514229)

For example, lets say one man developed telescopic vision today.

He did. [wikipedia.org]

Sure thats an advantage, so how long before 99% of the population gets telescopic vision.

Maybe 500 years, why?

Re:Let the flamewar begin! (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27514193)

For some reason this made me think of a scene from The Flight of Mavin Manyshaped [librarything.com] , where a member of a village built in a huge chasm is told by an outsider that the wind in the chasm is caused by a glacier at one end and a desert at the other (hot and cold source generating a convection current). The villager had always believed that his god caused the wind to blow to clear smoke out of the village.

The outsider politely smiles and nods, then shrugs to herself and thinks that if god wanted to clear the smoke out of a village, why shouldn't he use a glacier and a desert to do it with?

Today is a Great Day for /. (4, Funny)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27506581)

What is this?

Not only is there a link directly to the article, but there is a link to the actual paper!?

Re:Today is a Great Day for /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27507799)

A link to the actual paper?! In our Slashdot? I think you overestimate their chances...

Cataract (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27506623)

In spanish that eye disease is called cataratas, and that word can be translated too to waterfalls. When read about a puzzle in the eye, tetris was my 1st idea with that in mind.

Re:Cataract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27506817)

"Cataract" can mean "waterfall" in English, too.

Colorblindness? (1)

lemur3 (997863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27507843)

Will this type of thing be of any use in fixing that problem people have with color?

Re:Colorblindness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27508135)

Nope, the only cure for racism is to kill the racists.

Is This News? (1)

littlewink (996298) | more than 5 years ago | (#27508809)

I hate to say it but the fact that our vision system has complete coverage over the visual field is so f**ing obvious and has been shown so often before that there should be little need to do yet more research on that subject.

What is really valuable and novel about this research?

so that's why tetris is so damn addictive (2, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27509355)

you're eye is just organically attracted, narcissistically, to patterns that resemble itself

beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Evolutionary Intelligence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27513001)

The intelligence of evolution never ceases to amaze me. It must have spent billions of eons in the planning before it even dared to kickstart its creation of the universe. The number of fantastic designs it has come up with, all working together, is astounding. We humans have a long way to go before we can even dream of catching up.

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