Light-evoked current fluctuations have been recorded from ventral photoreceptors of Limulus for light intensity from threshold up to 10(5) times threshold. These data are analyzed in terms of the adapting bump noise model, which postulates that (a) the response to light is a summation of bumps; and (b) the average size of bump decreases with light intensity, and this is the major mechanism of light adaptation. It is shown here that this model can account for the data well. Furthermore, the model provides a convenient framework to characterize, in terms of bump parameters, the effects of calcium ions, which are known to affect photoreceptor functions. From responses to very dim light, it is found that the average impulse response (average of a large number of responses to dim flashes) can be predicted from knowledge of both the noise characteristics under steady light and the dispersion of latencies of individual bumps. Over the range of light intensities studied, it is shown that (a) the bump rate increases in strict proportionality to light intensity, up to approximately 10(5) bumps per second; and (b) the bump height decreases approximately as the -0.7 power of light intensity; at rates greater than 10(5) bumps per second, the conductance change associated with the single bump seems to reach a minimum value of approximately 10(-11) reciprocal ohms; (c) from the lowest to the highest light intensity, the bump duration decreases approximately by a factor of 2, and the time scale of the dispersion of latencies of individual bumps decreases approximately by a factor of 3; (d) removal of calcium ions from the bath lengthens the latency process and causes an increase in bump height but appears to have no effect on either the bump rate or the bump duration.

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