Analysis of quantal size of voltage responses to retinal stimulation in the accessory optic system

Michael Ariel, Manu Ben Johny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the intact vertebrate central nervous system, the quantal nature of synaptic transmission is difficult to measure because the postsynaptic sites may be distributed along a tortuous dendritic tree that cannot be readily clamped spatially to a uniform potential. Titrating the intact brain's extracellular concentration of calcium ions is also challenging because of its strong buffering mechanisms. In this study, using a whole brain with eye attached preparation, quantal neurotransmission was examined in the turtle brainstem in vitro, by recording from accessory optic system neurons that receive direct input from visually responsive retinal ganglion cells. Unitary EPSPs, evoked by microstimulation of a single ganglion cell, were measured during whole cell current-clamp recordings. In this preparation, the neurons exhibit direction-selectivity, despite the hypoxic conditions. Bath application of cadmium to reduce calcium influx also reduced evoked EPSP amplitudes to that of the spontaneous synaptic events. Statistical analyses indicated that these evoked response amplitudes could be well fitted to a Poisson distribution for most brainstem neurons. Therefore, the spontaneous miniature excitatory synaptic events of approximately 1 mV, as also observed during spike blockade of the retina [Kogo, N., Ariel, M., 1997. Membrane properties and monosynaptic retinal excitation of neurons in the turtle accessory optic system. Journal of Neurophysiology 78, 614-627], are likely responses to the neurotransmitter of single vesicles release by retinal axon terminals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 9 2007


  • Brainstem
  • EPSP
  • Electrophysiology
  • Retinal afferents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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