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Vis Neurosci. 2001 May-Jun;18(3):445-55.

Characterization of the rod photoresponse isolated from the dark-adapted primate ERG.

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W.K. Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48105, USA.


The a-wave of the human dark-adapted ERG is thought to derive from activity of rod photoreceptors. However, other sources within the retina could potentially perturb this simple equation. We investigated the extent to which the short-latency dark-adapted rod a-wave of the primate ERG is dominated by the rod photoresponse and the applicability of the phototransduction model to fit the rod a-wave. Dark-adapted Ganzfeld ERGs were elicited over a 5-log-unit intensity range using short bright xenon flashes, and the light-adapted cone responses were subtracted to isolate the rod ERG a-wave. Intravitreal 4-phosphono-butyric acid (APB) and cis-2,3-piperidine-dicarboxylic acid (PDA) were applied to isolate the photoreceptor response. The Hood and Birch version of the phototransduction model, Rmax[1 - e(-I x S x (t-t(eff)))2], was fitted to the a-wave data while allowing Rmax and S to vary. Three principle observations were made: (1) At flash intensities > or =0.77 log sc-td-s the leading edge of the normalized rod ERG a-wave tracks the isolated photoreceptor response across the first 20 ms or up to the point of b-wave intrusion. The rod ERG a-wave was essentially identical to the isolated receptor response for all intensities that produce peak responses within 14 ms after the flash. (2) The best fit of sensitivity (S) was not affected by APB and/or PDA, suggesting that the inner retina contributes very little to the dark-adapted a-wave. (3) APB always reduced the maximum dark-adapted a-wave amplitude (by 15-30%), and PDA always increased it (by 7-15%). Using the phototransduction model, both events can be interpreted as a scaling of the photoreceptor dark current. This suggests that activity of postreceptor cells somehow influences the rod dark current, possibly by feedback through horizontal cells (although currently not demonstrated for the rod system), or by altering the ionic concentrations near the photoreceptors, or by neuromodulator effects mediated by dopamine or melatonin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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