Linear information processing in the retina: A study of horizontal cell responses

D. Tranchina, J. Gordon, R. Shapley, J. Toyoda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A basic question about visual perception is whether the retina produces a faithful or a distorted neural representation of the visual image. It is now well known that in some retinal pathways there are significant nonlinear transductions which distort the neural image. The next natural question is, What are the locations of the nonlinear stages within the retinal network? We report here on an investigation of linearity and nonlinearity of responses of horizontal cells in the turtle retina as an assay of the degree of nonlinearity in the outer plexiform layer of the retina. The visual stimuli were sinusoidal gratings; these patterns were modulated by contrast reversal with a sinusoidal time course. The conclusion from our experiments is that the turtle's horizontal cell responses show evidence only of linear spatial summation even at moderately high contrasts on moderately high background levels. Our work thus indicates that there is no significant distortion of the visual image by the photoreceptors or by the neural summation of photoreceptor signals by horizontal cells under normal physiological conditions. These results are consistent with the view that the major nonlinearities of the retina are proximal to the outer plexiform layer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6540-6542
Number of pages3
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10 I
StatePublished - 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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