Effects of picrotoxin and strychnine on rabbit retinal ganglion cells: lateral interactions for cells with more complex receptive fields

J Physiol. 1978 Mar;276:277-98. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1978.sp012233.


1. The effects of picrotoxin and strychnine were tested on the receptive fields of direction sensitive cells, orientation sensitive cells, local edge detectors, uniformity detectors and large field units in the rabbit retina. 2. Picrotoxin eliminated the direction specificity and size specificity of 'on-off' and 'on' directionally sensitive cells for both black and white objects. Picrotoxin also made 'on' directionally sensitive cells responsive to faster velocities. 3. Picrotoxin eliminated the orientation specificity of orientation sensitive cells, and changed the bar-flank arrangement of the receptive field into a centre surround arrangement. Thus, the orientation specificity is due to inhibitory rather than excitatory mechanisms. 4. Picrotoxin altered the speed sensitivity of large field units so that they responded to slow speeds as well as fast ones, like centre surround Y cells. 5. Strychnine abolished the size specificity of local edge detectors and changed their speed specificity so that they responded to faster speeds. 6. Picrotoxin changed a uniformity detector into a sustained on centre cell. 7. Strychnine did not effect the direction specificity of directionally sensitive cells, the orientation specificity of orientation sensitive cells, or the speed specificity of large field units. Picrotoxin did not affect the size specificity of local edge detectors. 8. Picrotoxin and strychnine usually had opposing effects on the transient responses of these units to spots and annuli. In general picrotoxin prolonged and enhanced these responses at both on and off, and strychnine shortened them. 9. The effect of these drugs for every type of ganglion cell with complex receptive field properties was to make the receptive field more simple. The orientation selective cells, large field cells, 'on' direction selective cells and uniformity detectors seem to be centre surround cells with special properties that are abolished by these drugs. The 'on-off' direction selective cells and local edge detectors still on-off receptive fields, but in each case one of the drugs abolished the feature that was the basis for the cell's name.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Picrotoxin / pharmacology*
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / drug effects*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Strychnine / pharmacology*


  • Picrotoxin
  • Strychnine