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Original Article

Exp Neurobiol 2020; 29(1): 38-49

Published online February 29, 2020

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

New Features of Receptive Fields in Mouse Retina through Spike-triggered Covariance

Jungryul Ahn1, Bodo Rueckauer2, Yongseok Yoo3* and Yong Sook Goo1*

1Department of Physiology, Chungbuk National University School of Medicine, Cheongju 28644, Korea, 2Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH Zurich and University of Zurich, Zurich 8057, Switzerland, 3Department of Electronics Engineering, Incheon National University, Incheon 22012, Korea

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Yongseok Yoo, TEL: 82-32-835-8453, FAX: 82-32-835-0774
Yong Sook Goo, TEL: 82-43-261-2870, FAX: 82-43-272-1603

Received: July 28, 2019; Revised: February 19, 2020; Accepted: February 19, 2020

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License
( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) encode various spatiotemporal features of visual information into spiking patterns. The receptive field (RF) of each RGC is usually calculated by spike-triggered average (STA), which is fast and easy to understand, but limited to simple and unimodal RFs. As an alternative, spike-triggered covariance (STC) has been proposed to characterize more complex patterns in RFs. This study compares STA and STC for the characterization of RFs and demonstrates that STC has an advantage over STA for identifying novel spatiotemporal features of RFs in mouse RGCs. We first classified mouse RGCs into ON, OFF, and ON/OFF cells according to their response to full-field light stimulus, and then investigated the spatiotemporal patterns of RFs with random checkerboard stimulation, using both STA and STC analysis. We propose five sub-types (T1-T5) in the STC of mouse RGCs together with their physiological implications. In particular, the relatively slow biphasic pattern (T1) could be related to excitatory inputs from bipolar cells. The transient biphasic pattern (T2) allows one to characterize complex patterns in RFs of ON/OFF cells. The other patterns (T3-T5), which are contrasting, alternating, and monophasic patterns, could be related to inhibitory inputs from amacrine cells. Thus, combining STA and STC and considering the proposed sub-types unveil novel characteristics of RFs in the mouse retina and offer a more holistic understanding of the neural coding mechanisms of mouse RGCs.

Graphical Abstract

Keywords: Receptive fields (RFs), Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), Spatiotemporal white noise stimulation, Spike-triggered average (STA), Spiketriggered covariance (STC)