Dependence of the retinal Ganglion cell's responses on local textures of natural scenes

J Vis. 2011 May 20;11(6):11. doi: 10.1167/11.6.11.


An important property of natural images contributing to a retinal ganglion cell's (RGC) responses is the temporal modulation of mean intensity (contrast) in the receptive field (RF) center. However, these responses exhibit a significant amount of variability. This variability could arise in part from responses to the spatial intensity variation of the natural images in the RF center, i.e., their local intensity distribution or their local visual texture. We tested five predictions derived from this hypothesis: First, responses tend to increase with the variance of the local visual texture of natural images. Second, the skewed distribution of intensities in natural images leads to asymmetric responses to their onset and offset to and from a gray background of the same mean intensity. Third, repeating this experiment with the negative of natural images inverts the asymmetry. Fourth, performing an intensity histogram equalization of the images eliminates the asymmetry. Fifth, RGCs' responses increase with the spatial contrast of artificial plaids. The hypothesis passed all five tests, which indicate that responses to natural images increase with the variance of their visual texture. To account for this texture sensitivity, we propose a model in which the RFs of most RGCs of the rabbit have multiple nonlinear subunits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Models, Biological
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Rabbits
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Time Factors