The Origin of “on” and “off” Responses of Retinal Ganglion Cells

  • M. L. Wolbarsht
  • H. G. Wagner
  • E. F. MacNicholJr.
Conference paper


The complex train of neural events responsible for vision is initiated by the absorption of light in a photoreceptor cell, which in the vertebrate retina is but one unit of a highly organized structure containing many types of cells, nerve pathways and synaptic relationships. Very little is known regarding the role that each of the retinal structures plays in the transmission of information concerning the initial event of photoreception. We know that the various parameters such as intensity, hue, duration, shape, etc., must be encoded into the sequence of nerve impulses which leave the retina by way of the optic nerve. The ganglion cell is the final common pathway into the optic nerve through which the information regarding the stimulus must flow. In the complex pattern of the responses of this cell we can search for information on the controlling factors. Finding out the laws that govern the encoding of information by the retina is a basic step toward the understanding of the operation of the entire visual system.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Granit, R.: Sensory mechanisms of the retina. London: Oxford University Press 1947.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hartline, H. K.: The responses of single optic nerve fibers of the vertebrate eye to illumination of the retina. Amer. J. Physiol. 121, 400–415 (1938).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hodgkin, A. L., and A. F. Huxley: A quantitative description of membrane current and its application to conduction and excitation in nerve. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 117, 500–544 (1952).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kuffler, S. W.: Discharge patterns and the functional organization of the mammalian retina. J. Neurophysiol. 16, 37–68 (1953).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    MacNichol, E. F., jr., M. L. Wolbarsht and H. G. Wagner: Electrophysiological evidence for a mechanism of color vision in the goldfish. In W. D. McElroy and H. B. Glass: Light and Life. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press 1961.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wagner, H. G., E. F. MacNichol, jr., and M. L. Wolbarsht: The response properties of single ganglion cells in the goldfish retina. J. gen. Physiol. 43 (6) suppl. 45–62 (1960).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Wagner, H. G., E. F. MacNichol, jr., and M. L. Wolbarsht: Opponent color responses in retinal ganglion cells. Science 131, 1314 (1960).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Wolbarsht, M. L., H. G. Wagner and E. F. MacNichol, jr.: Receptive fields of retinal ganglion cells. This symposium.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1961

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. L. Wolbarsht
  • H. G. Wagner
  • E. F. MacNicholJr.

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations