1. These experiments were done to investigate the effect of various degrees of hypoxia on the function of retinal ganglion cells (recorded in the optic tract) and on retinal oxygen tension. 2. The contrast sensitivity of the centre of X and Y cells, the surround of X cells and the non‐linear subunits of Y cells were measured separately by choosing appropriate spatial and temporal parameters of a sinusoidal grating pattern. 3. Retinal oxygen tension was measured with a bipolar polarographic oxygen electrode positioned in the vitreous humor close to the retina. 4. The time course of changes in ganglion cell sensitivity and retinal oxygen tension was similar. However, oxygen tension frequently overshot the prehypoxic value at the end of hypoxia, while sensitivity did not. 5. The cat retina was rather resistant to hypoxia. Contrast sensitivity and mean firing rate did not change provided the arterial oxygen tension was above about 35 mmHg, but usually dropped precipitously at lower arterial values. 6. The apparent reason for this resistance is that retinal oxygen tension was well regulated, falling only 0.14 mmHg per mmHg of arterial oxygen tension for arterial values above about 35 mmHg, which corresponds to a retinal oxygen tension of about 10 mmHg. Retinal oxygen tension decreased more sharply (0.62 mmHg per mmHg) at lower values of arterial oxygen tension, where sensitivity also decreased. 7. The centre, surround and subunits reacted similarly to hypoxia. This suggests that lateral pathways (i.e. surround) and pathways which might be expected to use more synapses than the centre (i.e. surround and subunits) are not more susceptible to hypoxia.
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