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Neuron. 2002 Dec 5;36(5):909-19.

Fast and slow contrast adaptation in retinal circuitry.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, 16 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The visual system adapts to the magnitude of intensity fluctuations, and this process begins in the retina. Following the switch from a low-contrast environment to one of high contrast, ganglion cell sensitivity declines in two distinct phases: a fast change occurs in <0.1 s, and a slow decrease over approximately 10 s. To examine where these modulations arise, we recorded intracellularly from every major cell type in the salamander retina. Certain bipolar and amacrine cells, and all ganglion cells, adapted to contrast. Generally, these neurons showed both fast and slow adaptation. Fast effects of a contrast increase included accelerated kinetics, decreased sensitivity, and a depolarization of the baseline membrane potential. Slow adaptation did not affect kinetics, but produced a gradual hyperpolarization. This hyperpolarization can account for slow adaptation in the spiking output of ganglion cells.

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