Visual Perception and Neurophysiology

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When Purkinje wrote the lines cited above in 1819 for his doctoral dissertation, he initiated a long period of successful visual research. His conviction, that all subjectively observed sensory phenomena should have correlates in objective physiology, remained a theoretical postulate for over 100 years. The electroretinogram, although discovered in 1865 by Holmgren [224], contributed little to these correlations, and objective visual physiology did not begin until 60 years later. The first successful recordings obtained from the vertebrate optic nerve by Adrian and R. Matthews in 1927 [4] and from single optic fibres by Hartline in 1935 [191] mark the pioneer steps. In 1938 followed Hartline’S classification of the responses from single optic nerve fibres in the frog [192] and of their receptive fields. Thereafter, the physiology of visual neurones made such rapid progress that it can now provide objective correlates for many visual phenomena, such as brightness, contrast and colour, on the basis of single neurone recordings from the retina, the optic nerve, and the visual projections in the brain itself.

„Es ist ein unabweisbarer Glaube des Naturforschers, daß einer jeden Modification des Subjectiven innerhalb der Sinnessphäre jedesmal eine im Objectiven entspreche.“ Johann Purkinje, 1819 [369]
This chapter is dedicated to Professor J.Szentagothai, Budapest, on his 60th birthday, in appreciation of his basic anatomical contributions to neuronal physiology.