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J Neurophysiol. 2002 Aug;88(2):1026-39.

Functional inhibition in direction-selective retinal ganglion cells: spatiotemporal extent and intralaminar interactions.

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Department of Neurology, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02115, USA.


We recorded from ON-OFF direction-selective ganglion cells (DS cells) in the rabbit retina to investigate in detail the inhibition that contributes to direction selectivity in these cells. Using paired stimuli moving sequentially across the cells' receptive fields in the preferred direction, we directly confirmed the prediction of that a wave of inhibition accompanies any moving excitatory stimulus on its null side, at a fixed spatial offset. Varying the interstimulus distance, stimulus size, luminance, and speed yielded a spatiotemporal map of the strength of inhibition within this region. This "null" inhibition was maximal at an intermediate distance behind a moving stimulus: 1/2 to 11/2 times the width of the receptive field. The strength of inhibition depended more on the distance behind the stimulus than on stimulus speed, and the inhibition often lasted 1-2 s. These spatial and temporal parameters appear to account for the known spatial frequency and velocity tuning of ON-OFF DS cells to drifting contrast gratings. Stimuli that elicit distinct ON and OFF responses to leading and trailing edges revealed that an excitatory response of either polarity could inhibit a subsequent response of either polarity. For example, an OFF response inhibited either an ON or OFF response of a subsequent stimulus. This inhibition apparently is conferred by a neural element or network spanning the ON and OFF sublayers of the inner plexiform layer, such as a multistratified amacrine cell. Trials using a stationary flashing spot as a probe demonstrated that the total amount of inhibition conferred on the DS cell was equivalent for stimuli moving in either the null or preferred direction. Apparently the cell does not act as a classic "integrate and fire" neuron, summing all inputs at the soma. Rather, computation of stimulus direction likely involves interactions between excitatory and inhibitory inputs in local regions of the dendrites.

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