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Stimulus size and intensity alter fundamental receptive-field properties of mouse retinal ganglion cells in vivo

  • BOTIR T. SAGDULLAEV (a1) (a2) and MAUREEN A. MCCALL (a1)

The receptive field (RF) of most retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) is comprised of an excitatory center and an antagonistic surround. Interactions between these RF elements shape most of the visual responses of RGCs. To begin to investigate center-surround interactions of mouse RGCs quantitatively, we characterized their responses in an in vivo preparation to a variety of spot and full-field stimuli. When RGCs were stimulated with a spot that matched the cell's RF center diameter (optimal spot), all RGCs could be categorized as either ON- or OFF-center. In all RGCs, full-field stimulation significantly reduced both the peak and the mean firing rates evoked with an optimal spot stimulus. Full-field stimulation revealed differences in other response properties between ON- and OFF-center RGCs. With a full-field stimulus, the duration of the OFF-center RGCs response was reduced making them more transient, while the duration of the ON-center RGCs increased making them more sustained. Of most interest, full-field stimulation altered the RF center response sign in approximately half of the OFF-center RGCs, which became either OFF/ON or ON only. In contrast, all ON-center and the other OFF-center cells conserved their RF response sign in the presence of the full-field stimulus. We propose that sign-altering OFF-center RGCs possess an additional RF surround mechanism that underlies this alteration in their response. Of general interest these results suggest that the sole use of full-field stimulation to categorize visual response properties of RGCs does not adequately reflect their RF organization and, therefore, is not an optimal strategy for their classification.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Maureen A. McCall, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA. E-mail:
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Visual Neuroscience
  • ISSN: 0952-5238
  • EISSN: 1469-8714
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