Is the input to a GABAergic synapse the sole asymmetry in turtle's retinal directional selectivity?

Vis Neurosci. May-Jun 1996;13(3):423-39. doi: 10.1017/s0952523800008105.


We examined the effects of picrotoxin and pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) on the responses to motions of ON-OFF directionally selective (DS) ganglion cells of the turtle's retina. These drugs are antagonists of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. For continuous motions, picrotoxin markedly reduced the overall directionality of the cells. In 21% of the cells, directional selectivity was lost regardless of speed and contrast. However, other cells maintained their preferred direction despite saturating concentrations of picrotoxin. And in most cells, loss, maintenance, or even reversal of preferred and null directions could occur as speed and contrast were modulated. In 50% of the cells, reversal of preferred and null directions occurred at some condition of visual stimuli. However, picrotoxin did not tend to alter the preferred-null axis for directional selectivity. For apparent motions, picrotoxin made motion facilitation, which normally occurs exclusively in preferred-direction responses, to become erratic and often occur during null-direction motions. Finally, PTZ had effects similar to picrotoxin but with less potency. The results in this paper indicated that models of directional selectivity based solely on a GABAergic implementation of Barlow and Levick's asymmetric-inhibition model do not apply to the turtle retina. Alternative models may comprise multiple directional mechanisms and/or a symmetric inhibitory one, but not asymmetric facilitation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Models, Biological
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Pentylenetetrazole / pharmacology
  • Picrotoxin / pharmacology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Turtles / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • GABA Antagonists
  • Picrotoxin
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Pentylenetetrazole