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Evidence for a Physiological Explanation of the Waterfall Phenomenon and Figural After-effects


IN the rabbit's retina ganglion cells have recently been found which signal the direction of motion of objects moving in the visual field1,2. These cells give brief responses at ‘on’ and ‘off’ to lights falling in their receptive fields and they give vigorous responses to moving spots, but only when these are moved in certain directions through their fields. Motion in the ‘preferred’ direction gives the maximum discharge, while motion in the opposite, ‘null’, direction, causes no response. The ‘preferred’ direction differs in different units: thus which of a set of cells are active conveys information as to the direction of motion of objects in the visual field. The frequency of the discharge depends greatly on speed and direction of motion, but is only slightly influenced by the intensity of the moving stimulus spot. Furthermore, the discharge occurs for the same direction of motion with a black spot as with a white spot. This behaviour is what one might expect in units of which the function is to abstract direction of motion from the pattern of light falling on the retina.

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BARLOW, H., HILL, R. Evidence for a Physiological Explanation of the Waterfall Phenomenon and Figural After-effects. Nature 200, 1345–1347 (1963).

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