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Vis Neurosci. 2011 Sep;28(5):403-17. doi: 10.1017/S0952523811000307.

Spatial receptive field properties of rat retinal ganglion cells.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


The rat is a popular animal model for vision research, yet there is little quantitative information about the physiological properties of the cells that provide its brain with visual input, the retinal ganglion cells. It is not clear whether rats even possess the full complement of ganglion cell types found in other mammals. Since such information is important for evaluating rodent models of visual disease and elucidating the function of homologous and heterologous cells in different animals, we recorded from rat ganglion cells in vivo and systematically measured their spatial receptive field (RF) properties using spot, annulus, and grating patterns. Most of the recorded cells bore likeness to cat X and Y cells, exhibiting brisk responses, center-surround RFs, and linear or nonlinear spatial summation. The others resembled various types of mammalian W cell, including local-edge-detector cells, suppressed-by-contrast cells, and an unusual type with an ON-OFF surround. They generally exhibited sluggish responses, larger RFs, and lower responsiveness. The peak responsivity of brisk-nonlinear (Y-type) cells was around twice that of brisk-linear (X-type) cells and several fold that of sluggish cells. The RF size of brisk-linear and brisk-nonlinear cells was indistinguishable, with average center and surround diameters of 5.6 ± 1.3 and 26.4 ± 11.3 deg, respectively. In contrast, the center diameter of recorded sluggish cells averaged 12.8 ± 7.9 deg. The homogeneous RF size of rat brisk cells is unlike that of cat X and Y cells, and its implication regarding the putative roles of these two ganglion cell types in visual signaling is discussed.

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