1. Heterochromatic flicker photometry is a way of measuring the spectral sensitivity of the human eye. Two lights of different colour are sinusoidally alternated at, typically, 10‐20 Hz, and their relative intensities adjusted by the observer until the sensation of flicker is minimized. This technique has been used to define the human photopic luminosity, or V lambda, function on which photometry is based. 2. We have studied the responses of macaque retinal ganglion cells using this stimulus paradigm. The responses of the phasic ganglion cells go through a minimum at relative radiances very similar to that predicted from the V lambda function. At this point, defined as equal luminance, an abrupt change in response phase was observed. A small residual response at twice the flicker frequency was apparent under some conditions. 3. The spectral sensitivity of parafoveal phasic cells measured in this way corresponded very closely to that of human observers minimizing flicker on the same apparatus. 4. Minima in phasic cell activity were independent of flicker frequency, as is the case in the psychophysical task. 5. The response minima of phasic cells obey the laws of additivity and transitivity which are important characteristics of heterochromatic flicker photometry. 6. As the relative intensities of the lights were altered responses of tonic, spectrally opponent cells usually underwent a gradual phase change with vigorous responses at equal luminance. The responses of tonic cells treated individually or as a population could not be related to the V lambda function in any meaningful way. 7. We conclude that the phasic, magnocellular cell system of the primate visual pathway underlies performance in the psychophysical task of heterochromatic flicker photometry. It is likely that other tasks in which spectral sensitivity conforms to the V lambda function also rely on this cell system.
The Journal of Physiology – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1988
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