Sustained and transient neurones in the cat's retina and lateral geniculate nucleus

J Physiol. 1971 Sep;217(2):473-96. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1971.sp009581.


1. Cat retinal ganglion cells may be subdivided into sustained and transient response-types by the application of a battery of simple tests based on responses to standing contrast, fine grating patterns, size and speed of contrasting targets, and on the presence or absence of the periphery effect. The classification is equivalent to the ;X'/;Y' (linear/nonlinear) subdivision of Enroth-Cugell & Robson which is thus confirmed and extended.2. The sustained/transient classification applied to both on-centre and off-centre cells.3. Lateral geniculate neurones may be similarly classified by the same tests. Occasional concentrically organized cells had a mixture of sustained and transient properties.4. A technique for simultaneous recording from a geniculate neurone and one or more retinal ganglion cells providing its excitatory input showed that the connexions were specific with respect to the sustained/transient classification as well as the on-centre/off-centre classification. Most geniculate neurones are excitatorily driven only by retinal ganglion cells of the same functional type. In a few cases the inputs were mixed but only with respect to the sustained/transient classification.5. Sustained retinal ganglion cells had slower-conducting axons than the transient type. The same was true for lateral geniculate neurones but in this case the distributions showed considerable overlap.6. The sustained/transient classification is the functional correlate for the well-known segregation of optic nerve fibres into two conduction groups.7. The pathways carrying sustained and transient information remain essentially separate from retina through the lateral geniculate nucleus to the striate cortex.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Electrophysiology
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Optic Nerve / physiology
  • Retina / physiology*