Conduction velocity variations minimize conduction time differences among retinal ganglion cell axons

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Science  16 Oct 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4825, pp. 358-360
DOI: 10.1126/science.3659918


The visual system is able to accurately represent the spatiotemporal relations among the elements of a changing visual scene as the image moves across the retinal surface. This precise spatiotemporal mapping occurs despite great variability in retinal position and conduction velocity even among retinal ganglion cells of the same physiological class-a variability that would seem to reduce the precision with which spatiotemporal information can be transmitted to central visual areas. There was a strong negative relation between the intraretinal and extraretinal conduction time for axons of individual ganglion cells of the X-cell class. The effect of this relation was to produce a nearly constant total transmission time between the soma of a retinal X cell and its central target site. Thus, the variation in the conduction velocities of retinal ganglion cell axons may ensure that, regardless of the constraints imposed by retinal topography, a precise spatiotemporal central representation of the retinal image is maintained.