Spatial tuning studies of the pattern evoked electroretinogram
The locus of origin of the pattern evoked electroretinogram, (PERG), has been the subject of considerable discussion. A novel approach was adopted in this study to further elaborate the nature of the PERG evoked by pattern onset/offset presentation. The PERG was found to be linearly related to stimulus contrast and in particular was linearly related to the temporal contrast of the retinal image, when elicited by patterns of low spatial frequency. At high spatial frequencies the retinal image contrast is significantly reduced because of optical degradation. This is described by the eye's modulation transfer function (MTF). The retinal contrast of square wave grating and chequerboard patterns of increasing spatial frequency were found by filtering their Fourier transforms by the MTF. The filtered pattern harmonics were then resynthesised to constitute a profile of retinal image illuminance from which the temporal and spatial contrast of the image could be calculated. If the PERG is a pure illuminance response it should be spatially insensitive and dependent upon the temporal contrast of stimulation. The calculated loss of temporal contrast for finer patterns was expressed as a space-averaged temporal contrast attentuation factor. This factor, applied to PERGs evoked by low spatial frequency patterns, was used to predict the retinal illuminance response elicited by a finer pattern. The predicted response was subtracted from the recorded signal and residual waveform was proposed to represent specific activity. An additional correction for the attenuation of spatial contrast was applied to the extracted pattern specific response. Pattern specific responses computed for different spatial frequency patterns in this way are the predicted result of iso-contrast pattern stimulation. The pattern specific responses demonstrate a striking bandpass spatial selectivity which peaks at higher spatial frequencies in the more central retina. The variation of spatial sensitivity with eccentricity corresponds closely with estimated ganglion receptive field centre separation and psychophysical data. The variation of retinal structure with eccentricity, in the form of the volumes of the nuclear layers, was compared with the amplitudes of the computed retinal illuminance and pattern specific responses. The retinal illuminance response corresponds more closely to the outer and inner nuclear layers whilst the pattern specific response appears more closely related to the ganglion cell layer. In general the negative response transients correspond to the more proximal retinal layers. This thesis therefore supports the proposed contribution of proximal retinal cell activity to the PERG and describes techniques which may be further elaborated for more detailed studies of retinal receptive field dimensions.