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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2009 Oct;50(10):4865-72. doi: 10.1167/iovs.08-3290. Epub 2009 May 6.

Stimulus-evoked intrinsic optical signals in the retina: spatial and temporal characteristics.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA.



To characterize the properties of stimulus-evoked retinal intrinsic signals and determine the underlying origins.


Seven adult cats were anesthetized and paralyzed to maximize imaging stability. The retina was stimulated with a liquid crystal display (LCD) integrated into a modified fundus camera (Topcon, Tokyo, Japan). The LCD presented patterned visual stimuli while the retina was illuminated with near infrared (NIR) light. The peristimulus changes in the NIR reflectance of the retina were recorded with a digital camera.


Two stimulus-evoked reflectance signals in the NIR were observed: a positive signal, corresponding to a relative increase in reflectance, and a negative signal, corresponding to a relative decrease in reflectance. When presented with a positive-contrast stimulus, the negative reflectance signals showed a tight spatial coupling with the stimulated region of retina, whereas the positive signals arose in an adjacent region of the retina. Signals remained spatially confined to the stimulated region even when stimuli of much longer duration were used. In addition, the positive and negative signal polarities reversed when the stimulus contrast was inverted. Both signals showed a rise time on the order of seconds, similar to those observed in the mammalian neocortex. The spectral dependency of the signals on illumination was similar to the absorbance spectra of hemoglobin and the oximetric relationship.


The findings characterize the basic properties of stimulus-evoked intrinsic signals of the retina. These signals were generally similar to the more extensively studied cortical signals. Collectively, the data suggest a hemodynamic component to the intrinsic optical signals of the retina.

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