Perhaps 35% of all of the ganglion cells of the cat do not have classical center-surround organized receptive fields. This paper describes, quantitatively, the responses of two such cell types to stimulation with sinusoidal luminance gratings, whose spatial frequency, mean luminance, contrast, and temporal frequency were varied independently. The patterns were well-focused on the retina of the anesthetized and paralyzed cat. In one type of cell, the maintained discharge was depressed or completely suppressed when a contrast pattern was imaged onto the receptive field (suppressed-by-contrast cell). In the other type of cell, the introduction of a pattern elicited a burst of spikes (impressed-by-contrast cell).
When stimulated with drifting gratings, the cell's mean rate of discharge was reduced (suppressed-by-contrast cell) or elevated (impressed-by-contrast cell) over a limited band of spatial frequencies. There was no significant modulated component of response. The reduction in mean rate of suppressed-by-contrast cells caused by drifting gratings had a monotonic dependence on contrast, a relatively low-pass temporal-frequency characteristic and was greater under photopic than mesopic illuminance. If gratings of spatial frequency, that when drifted evoked a response from these cells, were instead held stationary and contrast-reversed, the mean rate of a suppressed-by-contrast cell was also reduced and that of an impressed-by-contrast cell increased. But, for contrast-reversed gratings, the discharge contained substantial modulation at even harmonic frequencies, the largest being the second harmonic. The amplitude of this second harmonic did not depend on the spatial phase of the grating, and its dependence on spatial frequency, at least for suppressed-by-contrast cells, was similar to that of the reduction in mean rate of discharge. Our results suggest that the receptive fields of suppressed-by-contrast and impressed-by-contrast cells can be modeled with the general form of the nonlinear subunit components of Hochstein and Shapley's (1976) Y cell model.