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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Sep;106(3):1310-21. doi: 10.1152/jn.00943.2010. Epub 2011 Jun 8.

The impact of brief exposure to high contrast on the contrast response of neurons in primate lateral geniculate nucleus.

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Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences and Bosch Institute, The University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Prolonged exposure to an effective stimulus generally reduces the sensitivity of neurons early in the visual pathway. Yet eye and head movements bring about frequent changes in the retinal image, and it is less clear that exposure to brief presentations will produce similar desensitization. To address this, we made extracellular recordings from single neurons in the lateral geniculate nucleus of anesthetized marmosets, a New World primate. We measured the contrast response for drifting gratings before and after 0.5-s exposure to a high-contrast drifting grating, a stationary grating, or a blank screen. Prior exposure to the drifting grating reduced the contrast sensitivity of cells in the magnocellular pathway, on average by 23%; this reduction remained strong when the adapting and test stimuli were separated by 0.4 s. Exposure to a stationary grating of the preferred spatial phase did not change the contrast response; exposure to the opposite spatial phase did. None of the brief adaptors reduced the sensitivity of parvocellular cells. We conclude that brief periods of high contrast, such as those that would be expected to occur during a normal visual fixation, are sufficient to reduce the sensitivity of magnocellular-pathway cells.

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