Visually evoked field potentials in human subjects and single-cell responses from retinal ganglion cells in the macaque monkey were compared in closely similar stimulus situations. The classical heterochromatic flicker photometry (HFP) technique was used to measure spectral sensitivity in man, both psychophysically and by recording the 40-Hz response, and to measure the spectral sensitivity of magnocellular (MC-) pathway cells of the macaque. The three measures gave closely similar spectral-sensitivity curves. Close agreement between the three measures was also found when the variable-modulation HFP technique was used to measure spectral sensitivity. When the relative phase between red and green lights was varied, the point of minimum subjective flicker for human observers was close to a sharp minimum found in the amplitude of the 40-Hz response in human and was also close to a minimum in the response of MC-pathway neurons in the monkey. The human 40-Hz response saturated at between 10 and 30% modulation depth, and so did the response of MC-pathway cells in the monkey.
The 16-Hz response in human showed none of the above correlations with MC-pathway properties. On the other hand, parvocellular (PC-) pathway cells responded vigorously to constant-luminance, chromatic modulation, at frequencies higher than can be detected by human observers. The human 16-Hz response also was strong in that stimulus situation. In addition, the response of PC-pathway cells on increasing modulation depth showed little saturation, and this behaviour was paralleled by the human 16-Hz response.
We conclude that the properties of MC-pathway neurons in macaque are closely similar to the properties of the human 40-Hz response in the respects just described. We suggest that the 40-Hz response may offer a means of objectively isolating and investigating the contribution of the magnocellular stream to cortical activity in human. In contrast, the properties of PC-pathway neurons in macaque are quite different from the properties of the human 40-Hz response, and in several respects resemble the properties of the human 16-Hz response.