a1 Institute of Physics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
a2 MikroSens, Slependen, Norway
a3 Graduate Center for Visual Science (SUNY), State University of New York, New York, USA
a4 Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry, Department of Neurobiology (MPI), Göttingen, Germany
Comparisons of S- or prepotential activity, thought to derive from a retinal ganglion cell afferent, with the activity of relay cells of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) have sometimes implied a loss, or leak, of visual information. The idea of the “leaky” relay cell is reconsidered in the present analysis of prepotential firing and LGN responses of color-opponent cells of the macaque LGN to stimuli varying in size, relative luminance, and spectral distribution. Above a threshold prepotential spike frequency, called the signal transfer threshold (STT), there is a range of more than 2 log units of test field luminance that has a 1:1 relationship between prepotential- and LGN-cell firing rates. Consequently, above this threshold, the LGN cell response can be viewed as an extension of prepotential firing (a “nonleaky relay cell”). The STT level decreased when the size of the stimulus increased beyond the classical receptive field center, indicating that the LGN cell is influenced by factors other than the prepotential input. For opponent ON cells, both the excitatory and the inhibitory response decreased similarly when the test field size increased beyond the center of the receptive field. These findings have consequences for the modeling of LGN cell responses and transmission of visual information, particularly for small fields. For instance, for LGN ON cells, information in the prepotential intensity–response curve for firing rates below the STT is left to be discriminated by OFF cells. Consequently, for a given light adaptation, the STT improves the separation of the response range of retinal ganglion cells into “complementary” ON and OFF pathways.
(Received June 09 2011)
(Accepted January 19 2012)
(Online publication March 01 2012)