We studied the influence of steady annular light on the kinetics and sensitivity of horizontal cell (HC) responses to modulation of the intensity of small concentric spots in the turtle retina. As shown by previous investigators, when the intensity of the annulus was equal to the mean spot intensity, spot response kinetics were the same as those for the modulation of spatially uniform light. Turning off the annulus attenuated dramatically high-frequency flicker sensitivity and enhanced somewhat low-frequency sensitivity. This phenomenon reflects a modulation of synaptic transfer between cones and second-order neurons that is mediated by cones, and it will be referred to as cone-mediated surround enhancement (CMSE). Our main results are as follows: (a) The change in test-spot response sensitivity and kinetics upon dimming a steady surrounding annulus is a consequence of the change in spatial contrast rather than change in overall light level. (b) Introduction of moderate contrast between the mean spot intensity and steady surrounding light intensity causes a marked change in spot response kinetics. (c) The dependence of spot response kinetics on surrounding light can be described by a phenomenological model in which the steady state gain and the time constant of one or two single-stage, low-pass filters increase with decreasing annular light intensity (d) The effect of surrounding light on spot responses of a given HC is not determined by change in the steady component of the membrane potential of that cell. (e) Light outside the receptive field of an HC can affect that cell's spot response kinetics. (f) In an expanding annulus experiment, the distance over which steady annular light affects spot response kinetics varies among HCs and can be quite different even between two cells with closely matched receptive field sizes. (g) The degree of CMSE is correlated with HC receptive field size. This correlation suggests that part of the enhancement mechanism is located in the HC. Taken together, our results suggest the involvement of the inner retina in CMSE.
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