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