Responses from catfish retinal ganglion cells were evoked by a spot or an annulus of light and were analyzed by a procedure identical to the one used previously to study catfish amacrine cells (Sakai H. M., and K.-I. Naka, 1992. Journal of Neurophysiology. 67:430-442.). In two-input white-noise experiments, a response evoked by simultaneous stimulation of the center and surround was decomposed into the components generated by the center and surround through a process of cross-correlation. The center and surround responses were also decomposed into their linear and nonlinear components so that the response dynamics of the linear and nonlinear components could be measured. We found that the concentric organization of the receptive field was determined by linear components, i.e., the first-order kernels generated by the center and surround were of opposite polarity. Both the center and surround generated second-order kernels with similar signatures, i.e., the second-order components formed a monotonic receptive field. The peak response time of the first- and second-order kernels from the surround was longer by approximately 20 ms than that of the center. Except for the DC potential present in the intracellular responses, almost identical first- and second-order kernels for the center and surround were obtained from both the intracellular response and spike discharges. Thus, information on concentric organization of a receptive field is translated into spike discharges with little loss of information. A train of spike discharges carries, simultaneously, at least four kinds of information: two linear and two nonlinear components, which originate in the receptive field center and the surround. A spike train is not a simple signaling device but is a carrier of complex and multiple signals. Victor, J. D., and R. M. Shapley (1979. Journal of General Physiology. 74:671-687.) discovered similarly that, in the cat retina, static second-order nonlinearity is encoded into spike trains. Results obtained in this study support the thesis that signals generated by the preganglionic cells are translated into spike discharges without major modification and that those signals can be recovered from the spike trains (Sakuranaga, M., Y. Ando, and K.-I. Naka. 1987. Journal of General Physiology. 90:229-259.; Korenberg, M. J., H. M. Sakai, and K.-I. Naka. 1989. Journal of Neurophysiology. 61:1110-1120.). Current injection studies have shown that such signal transmission is possible (Sakai, H. M., and K.-I. Naka, 1988a. Journal of Neurophysiology. 60:1549-1567.; 1990. Journal of Neurophysiology. 63:105-119.).

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