U.S. scientists estimate the human retina can transmit visual input at roughly 10 million bits per second, similar to an Ethernet connection.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine scientists say their research points to ways in which neural systems compare with artificial ones, and can ultimately inform the design of artificial visual systems.

Using an intact retina from a guinea pig, the researchers recorded spikes of electrical impulses from ganglion cells and calculated the human retina can transmit data at roughly 10 million bits per second. By comparison, an Ethernet can transmit information between computers at speeds of 10 million to 100 million bits per second.

Investigators have known for decades there are 10 to 15 ganglion cell types in the retina adapted for picking up different movements and then work together to send a full picture to the brain. The study estimated the amount of information that is carried to the brain by seven of these ganglion cell types.

The findings appear in the July issue of the journal Current Biology.