Temporal contrast sensitivities in the range 0.33‐42 Hz for optimum spatial frequency grating stimuli were measured for large populations of XG and YG neurones. For fewer cells, complete spatial contrast sensitivity profiles were measured at a series of temporal frequencies and, in some cases, at a range of levels of retinal illumination too. Contrast sensitivities were measured from responses of cells reliably different from their maintained discharges. The cells’ discharges were recorded extracellularly from the binocular segment of the A laminae of the cat's dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. At their respective optimum spatial frequencies, YG cell were more sensitive on average than XG cells for most temporal frequencies, though the average temporal contrast sensitivity profiles of both cell classes had similar shapes. The optimum temporal frequency for both cell types was around 5 Hz. XG and YG cells seem to be relatively less sensitive to low temporal frequencies than their ganglion cell counterparts. At a retinal illumination of 230 cd/m2 (pupil, 3 mm2), increasing temporal frequency in the range 0.65‐21 Hz produced a relative improvement in low spatial frequency contrast sensitivity in most XG and all YG cells studied. There were some XG cells, though, which showed little or no effect of temporal frequency on their spatial contrast sensitivity curves. At all temporal frequencies, the shapes of spatial contrast sensitivity curves and the cells’ temporal contrast sensitivity profiles were not markedly dependent on the criterion level set to measure ‘threshold’ contrast. Reducing the level of retinal illumination in the range 230‐0.007 cd/m2 (pupil, 3 mm2) produced a fall in contrast sensitivities for both XG and YG cells. The loss in sensitivity was more marked at high spatial and high temporal frequencies. The similar shapes of the temporal contrast sensitivity curves of XG and YG cells weakens the suggestion that the human counterparts of these cells would provide a suitable physiological substrate for the psychophysical sustained and transient channels. Although the behaviour of XG and YG cells parallels quite closely changes in cat and human psychophysical spatial contrast sensitivities with temporal frequency and retinal illumination, many problems remain for equating results from the two fields.
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