Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 May 1998
The sudden displacement of the retinal image during a saccade raises the visual threshold of human observers to foveal stimuli. The fall in visual sensitivity observed during this phenomenon, known as saccadic suppression, seems to occur very early in the visual processing chain. The lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) is a likely locus for the multiple retinal and extraretinal interactions occurring during saccadic eye movements, therefore we used the responses of relay cells of adult cats to simulate a pychophysical experiment. We first measured the responses of X and Y relay cells (27 X and 13 Y) to central spots of optimal size and different contrasts. The spots were presented either alone or time locked with the rapid movement of a large, high-contrast peripheral pattern, referred to as shift. We measured the percentage of trials on which the relay cell fired more spikes when the spot (contrast: 0.03–1.0) was present than when it was absent. In experiments with human observers the task was to indicate, by a keypress, which of two otherwise identical temporal intervals contained the spot. The shift reduces the sensitivity (raises the contrast threshold) of neurones in the cat relay cells to brief, stationary targets presented to the receptive-field center. The suppression of visual sensitivity is significantly greater in Y cells than in X cells (average sensitivity ratios 5.6 ± 5.4 in Y cells, 1.59 ± 0.9 in X cells: P < 0.001, U test). The shift also reduces the sensitivity of human observers to the same target. This suggests that the LGN is a potential locus for the modulation of visual responses that leads to saccadic suppression.