Properties of rarely encountered types of ganglion cells in the cat's retina and an overall classification

J Physiol. 1974 Jul;240(2):457-92. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1974.sp010618.


1. In a reference sample of 960 cat retinal ganglion cells, seventy-three had receptive fields departing from the concentric centre-surround pattern.2. Five classes were distinguished among the subset: local edge detectors, direction-selective cells, colour-coded cells, uniformity detectors, edge inhibitory off-centre cells.3. Local edge detectors (forty-five) possessed a radially symmetrical pattern of responses to both centrifugal and centripetal movements of both black and white small targets, an on-off receptive field with a silent inhibitory surround and a low or zero maintained discharge. Their operation could be interpreted as the detection of a contrasting border confined to a small region of the visual field.4. With direction-selective units (eleven) it was possible to find an axis through the receptive field along which sharply different responses could be obtained for opposite directions of movement of small black or white targets.5. Colour units (six) were mostly of the single opponent type having excitatory input from blue-sensitive cones and inhibitory input from long wave-length cones. Both inputs coexisted at the centre of the field and either could be spatially more extensive than the other. One example changed over to rod input under scotopic conditions, another did not.6. Uniformity detectors (five) had a brisk maintained discharge which was reduced or abolished temporarily by all forms of visual stimulation.7. Edge inhibitory off-centre units (three) behaved like uniformity detectors for small targets and fine gratings but like off-centre on-surround units for large targets. Their receptive fields consisted of three concentric regions: a small sized, central edge inhibitory region; a larger zone of off-responsiveness; and an outlying annulus of on-responsiveness.8. It is argued that the above physiological types belong to the morphologically heterogeneous class of cells called gamma cells. The argument is based on similarity in the sizes of receptive fields and dendritic trees and on evidence that the axons are thinner than those of the brisk-sustained and brisk-transient ganglion cells.9. The physiological classification of cat retinal ganglion cells developed in this paper and the preceding one is summarized in a Table.10. It now appears that cat and rabbit possess a qualitatively similar complement of receptive field types among their ganglion cells; the differences reside in the quantitative expression of the various classes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cats
  • Color
  • Dendrites
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Mesencephalon / physiology
  • Neural Conduction
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Periodicity
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways