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J Physiol. 1970 Mar;206(3):677-700.

Responses of cat retinal ganglion cells to brief flashes of light.


1. The responses of cat retinal ganglion cells to brief flashes of light have been illustrated and described with a view to providing material for comparison with psychophysical experiments in the scotopic (rod-dominated) range of performance.2. There is a minimum response duration of 50-70 msec no matter how brief the flash is made. This duration is reached with stimuli lasting 32 msec or shorter.3. Reducing the background illumination obviously increases the latency of responses to stimuli at 4 times threshold intensity (about 10 msec increment per log. unit decrement) but has no obvious effect on the minimum response duration.4. The relation between intensity and duration of a flash for threshold responses closely resembles that in human psychophysical experiments. The Bunsen-Roscoe law is applicable for flash durations up to 64 msec.5. If equal amounts of energy are delivered in the form of a pair of flashes of varying separation rather than by rectangular pulses, the shape of the response changes more abruptly with the temporal factor.6. Non-linear performance is apparent for stimuli as weak as 4 times threshold.7. A method is developed for quantitative analysis of individual responses. It is based upon cross-correlation of the train of impulses with a Gaussian smoothing function and represents local impulse frequency as a smooth function of time. The method also improves the signal-to-noise ratio of post-stimulus time-histograms of the sum of many responses.8. The measurement of variability of individual responses is the main result of the method; its magnitude indicates that it is a significant new factor limiting temporal resolution with suprathreshold stimuli.

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