Spatial and temporal properties of light adaptation in the rod system

Sheng He, Donald I A MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Little is known about the mechanism that regulates the sensitivity of rod system at its normal operating light levels. Two experiments are reported in this paper. First, we searched for nonlinear distortion products in rod vision that could be generated from any local adaptation process, using a sensitive experimental procedure that has demonstrated local adaptation in cone vision. No local adaptation was evident in the rod system, even at near saturating light levels. Second, to investigate the dynamics of light adaptation in the rod system we presented a uniform flickering background, sinusoidally modulated in time, and measured increment thresholds for brief test flashes that were superimposed on this background at different times during the sinusoidal flicker cycle. At frequencies less than 5-6 Hz, the rod increment threshold follows the background modulation, with a slight phase advance. When the background is modulated faster than 5-6 Hz, the increment threshold remains the same regardless of when the test flash occurred during the background cycle. Thus the rod system sensitivity, unlike that of the cone system, can only change slowly, and is set by a space-integrated signal rather than independently for different rods. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3073-3081
Number of pages9
JournalVision Research
Issue number22
StatePublished - Oct 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH grant EY-01711.


  • Adaptation
  • Rods
  • Spatial resolution
  • Temporal resolution

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