Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis of nerve messages is described. The hypothesis that quantum fluctuations provide the only limit to the ability of frog ganglion cells to signal luminance change information is examined using ROC analysis. In the context of ROC analysis, the quantum fluctuation hypothesis predicts (a) the detectability of a luminance change signal should rise proportionally to the size of the change, (b) detectability should decrease as the square root of background, an implication of which is the deVries-Rose law, and (c) ROC curves should exhibit a shape particular to underlying Poisson distributions. Each of these predictions is confirmed for the responses of dimming ganglion cells to brief luminance decrements at scotopic levels, but none could have been tested using classical nerve message analysis procedures.

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