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J Physiol. 1979 Mar;288:107-27.

Synaptic drive and impulse generation in ganglion cells of turtle retina.


1. Light reponses and electrical constants of ganglion cells in the retina of the turtle were examined by intracellular recording in eyecup preparations. 2. In 'on', 'off', and 'on/off' cells, the impulses produced by illumination of the centre of the receptive field arose from slow synaptic depolarizations. The ganglion cells also exhibited inhibitory synaptic potentials. 3. The synaptic depolarization evoked by a step change in light intensity rose more slowly than the response of the cones in which the excitation originated, and the depolarization then declined in spite of a well maintained cone response. This behaviour is consistent with the notion advanced previously that, during transmission to ganglion cells, receptor signals are relayed through the equivalent of a bandpass filter. 4. The e.p.s.p.s evoked by light grew when the membrane was hyperpolarized by injected current and decreased when the membrane was depolarized. The i.p.s.p.s reversed at a level slightly negative to the resting potential in darkness. 5. In neither 'on' nor 'off' ganglion cells did the synaptic potentials evoked by step changes in illumination show the hyperpolarizing phases expected of a linear filter. The absence of hyperpolarizations is consistent with a rectification which permits transmission of depolarizations but not hyperpolarizations from bipolar to ganglion cells. 6. In darkness the membrane potential of some ganglion cells showed random depolarizations which brought the potential near the threshold for impulse generation. 7. With very small spots in the receptive field centre the 'on' responses of ganglion cells to flashes and steps of light grew approximately linearly with stimulus intensity. The step reponse was not, however, related to the flash response by superposition. Larger spots in the field centre gave responses which grew non-linearly with the intensity of even dim stimuli. 8 Depolarizing current passed through the recording electrode elicited a repetitive discharge of impulses. The frequency of firing increased linearly with current strength above a rheobase value of about 10(-10) A. Accommodation occurred during steady currents, the main decline taking place with a time constant of about 15 msec. 9. Strength-latency measurements and bridge records of ganglion cell charging by constant currents gave time constants of 10--20 msec and input resistances of 100--150 M omega.

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