Maintained discharge in the presence of a steady background luminance was analysed from forty‐eight cells in the A laminae of the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of cat. Cells were categorized as XG or YG and, in most cases, as on‐or off‐centre. The temporal contrast sensitivity function of twenty‐seven of the cells was measured using drifting gratings of the optimal spatial frequency. The maintained discharge was characterized by several simple descriptors, including the interval distribution, mean firing rate, and coefficient of variability. Its temporal organization was revealed by two indicators of correlational properties, the normalized autocovariance and the serial correlogram, and more effectively, by the less familiar plot of the standard deviation of firing rate versus sample duration. The statistics revealing temporal organization of the maintained discharge indicated that the variability of firing was nearly, but not quite, derived from a renewal process. The maintained discharges of seven cells were studied for more than one luminance level. Mean luminance did not appear to have any consistent effect upon the statistics of the maintained discharge. The temporal filtering properties of lateral geniculate cells were deduced from a comparison of the temporal contrast sensitivities of geniculate neurones (Troy, 1983b) and retinal ganglion cells (Lennie, 1980). Analyses showed that the maintained discharge of retinal neurones passed through this filter could not account for the observed statistics of the maintained discharge of geniculate neurones. It is proposed that additional noise is added to the retinal signal at the level of the lateral geniculate. Models are presented to explain how the signals might be filtered in a way that does not also affect the added noise.
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