Cornelius Schröder, David Klindt, Sarah Strauss, Katrin Franke, Matthias Bethge, Thomas Euler, Philipp Berens
Visual processing in the retina has been studied in great detail at all levels such that a comprehensive picture of the retina's cell types and the many neural circuits they form is emerging. However, the currently best performing models of retinal function are black-box CNN models which are agnostic to such biological knowledge. In particular, these models typically neglect the role of the many inhibitory circuits involving amacrine cells and the biophysical mechanisms underlying synaptic release. Here, we present a computational model of temporal processing in the inner retina, including inhibitory feedback circuits and realistic synaptic release mechanisms. Fit to the responses of bipolar cells, the model generalized well to new stimuli including natural movie sequences, performing on par with or better than a benchmark black-box model. In pharmacology experiments, the model replicated in silico the effect of blocking specific amacrine cell populations with high fidelity, indicating that it had learned key circuit functions. Also, more in depth comparisons showed that connectivity patterns learned by the model were well matched to connectivity patterns extracted from connectomics data. Thus, our model provides a biologically interpretable data-driven account of temporal processing in the inner retina, filling the gap between purely black-box and detailed biophysical modeling.