Introduction: Retinal input processing in the human visual system involves a phasic and tonic neural response. We investigated the role of the magno- and parvocellular systems by comparing the influence of the active neural population size and its discharge activity on the amplitude and latency of four VEP components.
Method: We recorded the scalp electric potential of 20 human volunteers viewing a series of dartboard images presented as a pattern reversing and pattern on-/offset stimulus. These patterns were designed to vary both neural population size coding the temporal- and spatial luminance contrast property and the discharge activity of the population involved in a systematic manner.
Results: When the VEP amplitude reflected the size of the neural population coding the temporal luminance contrast property of the image, the influence of luminance contrast followed the contrast response function of the parvocellular system. When the VEP amplitude reflected the size of the neural population responding to the spatial luminance contrast property the image, the influence of luminance contrast followed the contrast response function of the magnocellular system. The latencies of the VEP components examined exhibited the same behavior across our stimulus series.
Conclusions: This investigation demonstrates the complex interplay of the magno- and parvocellular systems on the neural response as captured by the VEP. It also demonstrates a linear relationship between stimulus property, neural response, and the VEP and reveals the importance of feedback projections in modulating the ongoing neural response. In doing so, it corroborates the conclusions of our previous study.