Institute for Medicine and Engineering Papers

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

January 2005


Reprinted from Journal of Neuroscience, Volume 25, Issue 4, January 26 2005, pages 860-8.
Publisher URL:


Retinal ganglion cells adapt their responses to the amplitude of fluctuations around the mean light level, or the "contrast." But, in mammalian retina, it is not known whether adaptation arises exclusively at the level of synaptic inputs or whether there is also adaptation in the process of ganglion cell spike generation. Here, we made intracellular recordings from guinea pig Y-type ganglion cells and quantified changes in contrast sensitivity (gain) using a linear-nonlinear analysis. This analysis allowed us to measure adaptation in the presence of nonlinearities, such as the spike threshold, and to compare adaptation in subthreshold and spiking responses. At high contrast (0.30), relative to low contrast (0.10), gain reduced to 0.82 ± 0.016 (mean ± SEM) for the subthreshold response and to 0.61 ± 0.011 for the spiking response. Thus, there was an apparent reduction in gain between the subthreshold and spiking response of 0.74 ± 0.013. Control experiments suggested that the above effects could not be explained by an artifact of the intracellular recording conditions: extracellular recordings showed a gain change of 0.58 ± 0.022. For intracellular recordings, negative current reduced the spike output but did not affect the gain change in the subthreshold response: 0.80 ± 0.051. Thus, adaptation in the subthreshold response did not require spike-dependent conductances. We conclude that the contrast-dependent gain change in the spiking response can be explained by both a synaptic mechanism, as reflected by responses in the subthreshold potential, and an intrinsic mechanism in the ganglion cell related to spike generation.


gain control, membrane potential, action potential, intrinsic property, Y-cell, alpha-cell



Date Posted: 18 January 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.