The all-rod retina of the skate (Raja erinacea or R. oscellata) is known to have the remarkable capability of responding to incremental flashes superimposed on background intensities that initially block all light-evoked responses and are well above the level at which rods saturate in mixed rod/cone retinas. To examine further the unusual properties of the skate visual system, we have analyzed responses of their horizontal cells to intensity-modulated step, sinusoidal, and white-noise stimuli. We found that during exposures to mean intensities bright enough to block responses to incremental stimuli, decremental stimuli were also initially blocked. Thereafter, the horizontal cells underwent a slow recovery phase during which there was marked nonlinearity in their response properties. The cell first (within 2-3 min) responded to decrements in intensity and later (after greater than 10 min) became responsive to incremental stimuli. After adaptation to a steady state, however, the responses to intensity modulation were nearly linear over a broad range of modulation depths even at the brightest mean levels of illumination. Indeed, examination of the steady-state responses over a 5-log-unit range of mean intensities revealed that the amplitude of the white noise-evoked responses depended solely on contrast, and was independent of the retinal irradiance as the latter was increased from 0.02 to 20 muW/cm2; i.e., contrast sensitivity remained unchanged over this 1,000-fold increase in mean irradiance. A decrement from the mean as brief as 2 s, however, disturbed the steady state. Another unexpected finding in this all-rod retina concerns surround-enhancement, a phenomenon observed previously for cone-mediated responses of horizontal cells in the retinas of turtle and catfish. While exposure to annular illumination induced response compression and a pronounced sensitivity loss in response to incremental light flashes delivered to the dark central region, the cell's sensitivity showed a significant increase when tested with a white noise or sinusoidally modulated central spot. Unlike horizontal cells in other retinas studied thus far, however, response dynamics remained unchanged. Responses evoked either by a small spot (0.25-mm diam) or by a large field light covering the entire retina were almost identical in time course. This is in contrast with past findings from cone-driven horizontal cells whose response waveform (dynamics) was dependent upon the size of the retinal area stimulated.
Responses were evoked from ganglion cells in catfish and frog retinas by a Gaussian modulation of the mean luminance. An algorithm was devised to decompose intracellularly recorded responses into the slow and spike components and to extract the time of occurrence of a spike discharge. The dynamics of both signals were analyzed in terms of a series of first-through third-order kernels obtained by cross-correlating the slow (analog) or spike (discrete or point process) signals against the white-noise input. We found that, in the catfish, (a) the slow signals were composed mostly of postsynaptic potentials, (b) their linear components reflected the dynamics found in bipolar cells or in the linear response component of type-N (sustained) amacrine cells, and (c) their nonlinear components were similar to those found in either type-N or type-C (transient) amacrine cells. A comparison of the dynamics of slow and spike signals showed that the characteristic linear and nonlinear dynamics of slow signals were encoded into a spike train, which could be recovered through the cross-correlation between the white-noise input and the spike (point process signals. In addition, well-defined spike correlates could predict the observed slow potentials. In the spike discharges from frog ganglion cells, the linear (or first-order) kernels were all inhibitory, whereas the second-order kernels had characteristics of on-off transient excitation. The transient and sustained amacrine cells similar to those found in catfish retina were the sources of the nonlinear excitation. We conclude that bipolar cells and possibly the linear part of the type-N cell response are the source of linear, either excitatory or inhibitory, components of the ganglion cell responses, whereas amacrine cells are the source of the cells' static nonlinearity.
The small- and large-field (cone) horizontal cells produce similar dynamic responses to a stimulus whose mean luminance is modulated by a white-noise signal. Nonlinear components increase with an increase in the mean luminance and may produce a mean square error (MSE) of up to 15%. Increases in the mean luminance of the field stimulus bring about three major changes: the incremental sensitivity defined by the amplitude of the kernels decreases in a Weber-Fechner fashion; the waveforms of the kernels are transformed from monophasic (integrating) to biphasic (differentiating); the peak response time of the kernels becomes shorter and the cells respond to much higher-frequency inputs. The dynamics of the horizontal cell response also depend on the area of the retina stimulated. Smaller spots of light produce monophasic kernels of a longer peak response time. The presence of a steady background produces three major changes in the spot kernels: the kernel's amplitude becomes larger (incremental sensitivity increases); the peak response times become shorter; the waveform of the kernels changes in a fashion similar to that observed with an increase in the mean luminance of the field stimulus. A similar enhancement in the incremental sensitivity by a steady background has also been observed in catfish, which shows that this phenomenon is a common feature of the horizontal cells in the lower vertebrate retina.