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Vision Res. 1995 Aug;35(16):2255-66.

Changes in retinal time scale under background light: observations on rods and ganglion cells in the frog retina.

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Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Finland.


The kinetics of rod responses to flashes and steps of light was studied as a function of background intensity (IB) at the photoreceptor and ganglion cell levels in the frog retina. Responses of the rod photoreceptors were recorded intracellularly in the eyecup and as ERG mass potentials across the isolated, aspartate-superfused retina. The kinetics of the retinally transmitted signal was derived from the latencies of ganglion cell spike discharges recorded extracellularly in the eyecup. In all states of adaptation the linear-range rod response to dim flashes could be modelled as the impulse response of a chain of low-pass filters with the same number of stages: 4 (ERG) or 4-6 (intracellular). Dark-adapted time-to-peak (tp, mean +/- SD) at 12 degrees C was 2.4 +/- 0.6 sec (ERG) or 1.7 +/- 0.4 sec (intracellular). Under background light, the time scale shortened as a power function of background intensity, I-bB with b = 0.19 +/- 0.03 (ERG) or 0.14 +/- 0.04 (intracellular). The latency-derived time scale of the rod-driven signal at the ganglion cell agreed well with that of the photoreceptor responses. The apparent underlying impulse response had tp = 2.0 +/- 0.7 sec in darkness and accelerated as I-bB with b = 0.17 +/- 0.03. The photoreceptor-to-ganglion-cell transmission delay shortened by 30% between darkness and a background delivering ca 10(4) photoisomerizations per rod per second. Data from the literature suggest that all vertebrate photoreceptors may accelerate according to similar power functions of adapting intensity, with exponents in the range 0.1-0.2. It is noteworthy that the time scale of human (foveal) vision in experiments on flicker sensitivity and temporal summation shortens as a power function of mean luminance with b approximately 0.15.

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