Mice Reach Higher Visual Sensitivity at Night by Using a More Efficient Behavioral Strategy

Sanna Koskela, Tuomas Turunen, Petri Ala-Laurila*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


Circadian clocks predictively adjust the physiology of organisms to the day/night cycle. The retina has its own clock, and many diurnal changes in its physiology have been reported. However, their implications for retinal functions and visually guided behavior are largely unresolved. Here, we study the impact of diurnal rhythm on the sensitivity limit of mouse vision. A simple photon detection task allowed us to link well-defined retinal output signals directly to visually guided behavior. We show that visually guided behavior at its sensitivity limit is strongly under diurnal control, reaching the highest sensitivity and stability at night. The diurnal differences in visual sensitivity did not arise in the retina, as assessed by spike recordings from the most sensitive retinal ganglion cell types: ON sustained, OFF sustained, and OFF transient alpha ganglion cells. Instead, we found that mice, as nocturnal animals, use a more efficient search strategy for visual cues at night. Intriguingly, they can switch to the more efficient night strategy even at their subjective day after first having performed the task at night. Our results exemplify that the shape of visual psychometric functions depends robustly on the diurnal state of the animal, its search strategy, and even its diurnal history of performing the task. The results highlight the impact of the day/night cycle on high-level sensory processing, demonstrating a direct diurnal impact on the behavioral strategy of the animal.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4
Pages (from-to)42-53
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • animal tracking
  • arousal
  • behavior
  • brain state
  • circadian rhythm
  • ganglion cell
  • mouse
  • neural circuit
  • retina
  • vision


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