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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Jul;106(1):153-62. doi: 10.1152/jn.00956.2010. Epub 2011 Apr 13.

Response variability to high rates of electric stimulation in retinal ganglion cells.

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Institute for Laser Medicine and Bio-Photonics, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao-Tong University, Shanghai, China.


To improve the quality of prosthetic vision, it is important to understand how retinal neurons respond to electric stimulation. Previous studies present conflicting reports as to the maximum rate at which retinal ganglion cells can "follow" pulse trains, i.e., generate one spike for each pulse of the train. In the present study, we measured the response of 5 different types of rabbit retinal ganglion cells to pulse trains of 100-700 Hz. Surprisingly, we found significant heterogeneity in the ability of different types to follow pulse trains. For example, brisk transient (BT) ganglion cells could reliably follow pulse rates up to 600 pulses per second (PPS). In contrast, other types could not even follow rates of 200 PPS. There was additional heterogeneity in the response patterns across those types that could not follow high-rate trains. For example, some types generated action potentials in response to approximately every other pulse, whereas other types generated one spike per pulse for a few consecutive pulses and then did not generate any spikes in response to the next few pulses. Interestingly, in the types that could not follow high-rate trains, we found a second type of response: many pulses of the train elicited a biphasic waveform with an amplitude much smaller than that of standard action potentials. This small waveform was often observed following every pulse for which a standard spike was not elicited. A possible origin of the small waveform and its implication for effective retinal stimulation are discussed.

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