Functional asymmetries in ON and OFF ganglion cells of primate retina

J Neurosci. 2002 Apr 1;22(7):2737-47. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.22-07-02737.2002.


Functional asymmetries in the ON and OFF pathways of the primate visual system were examined using simultaneous multi-electrode recordings from dozens of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in vitro. Light responses of RGCs were characterized using white noise stimulation. Two distinct functional types of cells frequently encountered, one ON and one OFF, had non-opponent spectral sensitivity, relatively high response gain, transient light responses, and large receptive fields (RFs) that tiled the region of retina recorded, suggesting that they belonged to the same morphological cell class, most likely parasol. Three principal functional asymmetries were observed. (1) Receptive fields of ON cells were 20% larger in diameter than those of OFF cells, resulting in higher full-field sensitivity. (2) ON cells had faster response kinetics than OFF cells, with a 10-20% shorter time to peak, trough and zero crossing in the biphasic temporal impulse response. (3) ON cells had more nearly linear light responses and were capable of signaling decrements, whereas OFF cells had more strongly rectifying responses that provided little information about increments. These findings suggest specific mechanistic asymmetries in retinal ON and OFF circuits and differences in visual performance on the basis of the activity of ON and OFF parasol cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Color
  • Contrast Sensitivity
  • Data Display
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kinetics
  • Macaca
  • Microelectrodes
  • Models, Neurological
  • Normal Distribution
  • Photic Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / classification
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / radiation effects
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*