Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Ralf Wessel


Feedback is an ubiquitous feature of neural systems though there is little consensus on the roles of mechanisms involved with feedback. We set up an in vivo preparation to study and characterize an accessible and isolated feedback loop within the visual system of the leopard frog, Rana pipiens. We recorded extracellularly within the nucleus isthmi, a nucleus providing direct topographic feedback to the optic tectum, a nucleus that receives the vast majority of retinal output. The optic tectum and nucleus isthmi of the amphibian are homologous structures to the superior colliculus and parabigeminal nucleus in mammals, respectively. We formulated a novel threshold for detecting neuronal spikes within a low signal-to-noise environment, as exists in the nucleus isthmi due to its high density of small neuronal cell bodies. Combining this threshold with a recently developed spike sorting procedure enabled us to extract simultaneous recordings from up to 7 neurons at a time from a single extracellular electrode. We then stimulated the frog using computer driven dynamic spatiotemporal visual stimuli to characterize the responses of the nucleus isthmi neurons. We found that the responses display surprisingly long time courses to simple visual stimuli. Furthermore, we found that when stimulated with complex contextual stimuli the response of the nucleus isthmi is quite counter-intuitive. When a stimulus is presented outside of the classical receptive field along with a stimulus within the receptive field, the response is actually higher than the response to just a stimulus within the classical receptive field. Finally, we compared the responses of all of the simultaneously recorded neurons and, together with data from in vitro experiments within the nucleus isthmi, conclude that the nucleus isthmi of the frog is composed of just one electrophysiological population of cells.


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