Differential effects of short‐ and long‐pulsewidth laser exposures on retinal ganglion cell response

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Time‐dependent effects of laser exposures on rhesus monkey retinal ganglion cells were studied with a Q‐switched, doubled Nd:glass laser, which produced 20 nsec pulses of 530‐nm light, and a continuous‐wave (CW) argon laser (514.5 nm), which produced exposures of 0.1‐msec to 0.1‐sec duration. Ganglion cell activity was recorded in situ by means of an intraocular electrode. Ganglion cells exposed to a single 20‐nsec exposure, at a sublesion intensity, produced a 60–90 sec discharge of action potentials and exhibited a 2 log or greater elevation of light threshold, depending on beam size and intensity. At equivalent energy levels, the longer exposures produced the same or slightly weaker effects. This result is not as straightforward as it seems. Submillisecond flashes bleach no more than 50% of the visual pigment because of photoregeneration. The Dowling‐Rushton relation predicts that a 50% bleach should produce only a 1.5 log loss of cone sensitivity. Exposures longer than 1 msec should not photoregenerate pigment (ie, more pigment will be bleached for a given exposure intensity). In view of the probable differences in pigment bleaching, it appears that the Q‐switched laser light adapts the cells out of proportion to the visual pigment actually bleached—a single‐cell analogue of Rushton's “theta” effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-440
Number of pages7
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • Q‐switched lasers
  • argon lasers
  • electrophysiology
  • neodymium lasers
  • reciprocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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