Abstract

The inhibitory interaction among neural elements in the compound eye of Limulus was investigated by recording impulses from two or more optic nerve fibers simultaneously. The inhibitory influences are exerted mutually and recurrently, with an appreciable time delay, over a network of interconnections among the interacting elements.

Under steady conditions of retinal illumination the activity of any group of interacting elements may be described by a set of simultaneous equations, one equation for each element. In each equation the activity of the particular element represented is expressed as the resultant of the excitatory stimulus to it and the opposing inhibitory influences exerted on it by all the others. By also taking account of the time required for an inhibitory effect exerted by one element to act upon another, this quantitative description may be extended to include transient phenomena associated with changes in the pattern of retinal illumination.

The influences exerted over the inhibitory network give rise to maxima and minima in the optic nerve responses to spatial patterns of illumination, and to fluctuations in the responses to temporal patterns. The spatial and temporal properties of the responses of the population of interacting elements are analogous to a number of familiar phenomena in human vision and may offer an explanation for them. These properties also lend support to the view that inhibition may play a role in the generation of the transient “on” and “off” responses observed in a wide variety of visual systems.

© 1963 Optical Society of America

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Figures (19)

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