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Journal Article

The physiological basis of the minimally distinct border demonstrated in the ganglion cells of the macaque retina.


Lee,  B. B.
Abteilung Neurobiologie, MPI for biophysical chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Kaiser, P. K., Lee, B. B., Martin, P. R., & Valberg, A. (1990). The physiological basis of the minimally distinct border demonstrated in the ganglion cells of the macaque retina. Journal of Physiology-London, 422, 153-183. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.1990.sp017978.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-0E2C-0
1. The minimally distinct border method involves setting the relative radiances of two adjacent, differently coloured fields until the border between them is minimally distinct. At these radiance settings, the two fields are found to be of equal luminance. The task shares with flicker photometry all the requirements of a photometric method. 2. We have recorded responses of macaque ganglion cells to such borders moved back and forth across the receptive field; the size of the luminance step across the border was systematically varied. 3. Phasic ganglion cells gave transient responses to such borders, consisting of an increase or decrease in firing rate depending on direction of luminance contrast and cell type (on- or off-centre). Tonic ganglion cells gave sustained responses dependent on chromatic contrast across the border. 4. An analysis of phasic cell responses showed a minimum near equal luminance, suggesting their signal could readily support the minimally distinct border task. We could not devise a scheme whereby tonic cells could support the task. 5. Spectral sensitivity of phasic cells, determined from their minima, closely resembled the 10 deg luminous efficiency function, as required of a mechanism underlying the psychophysical performance. 6. For phasic cells, the minimum was independent of movement speed, and hence of eye movement velocity under natural viewing conditions. 7. Proportionality, additivity and transitivity are found psychophysically with the minimally distinct border method. All these properties were also exhibited by phasic cell responses. 8. Residual responses were present in individual phasic cells to equal-luminance borders, probably due to a non-linearity of M- and L-cone summation. The amplitude of residual response depended on the wavelengths on either side of the border, and was zero for pairs of lights lying along a tritanopic confusion line. These residual responses could be correlated with residual border distinctness at equal luminance as reported psychophysically. 9. There was some variability in spectral sensitivity among phasic cells, and this could be described in terms of variability in weighting of the middle- and long-wavelength cone inputs to each cell. With equal-luminance borders, the residual response of the phasic cell population will thus be made up of the residual responses from individual cells and a contribution due to variation in spectral sensitivity among cells. 10. The responses of phasic ganglion cells thus form the physiological substrate of psychophysical performance on the minimally distinct border task. These cells also provide a residual signal to equal-luminance borders which correlates with residual distinctness.