Chromatic summation and receptive field properties of blue-on and blue-off cells in marmoset lateral geniculate nucleus

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Graphical abstractHighlightsBlue-on and blue-off receptive-field properties were identified in primate LGN.Sensitivities to short-wave (S) and medium/long-wave (ML) cone contrast are similar.S and ML receptive field subunits have similar spatial extents.Vector sum model predicts responses to achromatic S + ML and chromatic S − ML contrast.Blue-on and blue-off receptive fields select more for chromatic than spatial contrast.The “blue-on” and “blue-off” receptive fields in retina and dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of diurnal primates combine signals from short-wavelength sensitive (S) cone photoreceptors with signals from medium/long wavelength sensitive (ML) photoreceptors. Three questions about this combination remain unresolved. Firstly, is the combination of S and ML signals in these cells linear or non-linear? Secondly, how does the timing of S and ML inputs to these cells influence their responses? Thirdly, is there spatial antagonism within S and ML subunits of the receptive field of these cells? We measured contrast sensitivity and spatial frequency tuning for four types of drifting sine gratings: S cone isolating, ML cone isolating, achromatic (S + ML), and counterphase chromatic (S − ML), in extracellular recordings from LGN of marmoset monkeys. We found that responses to stimuli which modulate both S and ML cones are well predicted by a linear sum of S and ML signals, followed by a saturating contrast-response relation. Differences in sensitivity and timing (i.e. vector combination) between S and ML inputs are needed to explain the amplitude and phase of responses to achromatic (S + ML) and counterphase chromatic (S − ML) stimuli. Best-fit spatial receptive fields for S and/or ML subunits in most cells (>80%) required antagonistic surrounds, usually in the S subunit. The surrounds were however generally weak and had little influence on spatial tuning. The sensitivity and size of S and ML subunits were correlated on a cell-by-cell basis, adding to evidence that blue-on and blue-off receptive fields are specialised to signal chromatic but not spatial contrast.

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