Spatial properties of the cat X-cell receptive field as a function of mean light level

J. B. Troy*, D. L. Bohnsack, L. C. Diller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Our objective with this study was to provide a near complete characterization of how mean light level changes the spatial receptive-field properties of X-cells. Single X-cells were recorded extracellularly either from cell bodies in the retina or from their axons in the optic tract. Frequency responses of the cells at 2 Hz were measured for a set of gratings of different spatial frequencies and for a stimulus designed to probe the spatial properties of the receptive-field surround. Predicted frequency responses of a Gaussian center-surround model for the receptive field were fit simultaneously to both sets of measurements and the parameters of the model that best fit the data used to characterize the spatial properties of the receptive field. Measurements were made at a number of mean light levels for each cell and changes in receptive-field properties were characterized by changes in the parameters of the Gaussian center-surround model. The range of illuminances studied covered the bulk of the range encountered by a cat naturally and three distinct functional ranges appeared to express themselves in the data. One range corresponded to the cat's photopic range of vision. The other two ranges were where signals originating in rods dominate X-cell responses. We argue that one corresponds to the range that rod signals pass predominantly through rod bipolars en route to the X-cell, while the other is where rod signals flow predominantly through cones via gap junctions and then follow the path of cone signals to the X-cell. Among the major findings are that Weber's Law is followed throughout the photopic but not the scotopic range, that center radius expands under scotopic conditions, and that the surround is present even at the lowest scotopic levels we studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1104
Number of pages16
JournalVisual Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • Cone and rod pathways
  • Contrast sensitivity
  • Electrophysiology
  • Sampling window
  • Visual adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology


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