Background: The precise form of the light response of human cone photoreceptors in vivo has not been established with certainty. To investigate the response shape we compare the predictions of a recent model of transduction in primate cone photoreceptors with measurements extracted from human cones using the paired-flash electroretinogram method. As a check, we also compare the predictions with previous single-cell measurements of ground squirrel cone responses.
Results: The predictions of the model provide a good description of the measurements, using values of parameters within the range previously determined for primate retina. The dim-flash response peaks in about 20 ms, and flash responses at all intensities are essentially monophasic. Three time constants in the model are extremely short: the two time constants for inactivation (of visual pigment and of transducin/phosphodiesterase) are around 3 and 10 ms, and the time constant for calcium equilibration lies in the same range.
Conclusion: The close correspondence between experiment and theory, using parameters previously derived for recordings from macaque retina, supports the notion that the electroretinogram approach and the modelling approach both provide an accurate estimate of the cone photoresponse in the living human eye. For reasons that remain unclear, the responses of isolated photoreceptors from the macaque retina, recorded previously using the suction pipette method, are considerably slower than found here, and display biphasic kinetics.