Implantable retinal stimulators activate surviving neurons to restore a sense of vision in people who have lost their photoreceptors through degenerative diseases. Complex spatial and temporal interactions occur in the retina during multi-electrode stimulation. Due to these complexities, most existing implants activate only a few electrodes at a time, limiting the repertoire of available stimulation patterns. Measuring the spatiotemporal interactions between electrodes and retinal cells, and incorporating them into a model may lead to improved stimulation algorithms that exploit the interactions. Here, we present a computational model that accurately predicts both the spatial and temporal nonlinear interactions of multi-electrode stimulation of rat retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). The model was verified using in vitro recordings of ON, OFF, and ON-OFF RGCs in response to subretinal multi-electrode stimulation with biphasic pulses at three stimulation frequencies (10, 20, 30 Hz). The model gives an estimate of each cell’s spatiotemporal electrical receptive fields (ERFs); i.e., the pattern of stimulation leading to excitation or suppression in the neuron. All cells had excitatory ERFs and many also had suppressive sub-regions of their ERFs. We show that the nonlinearities in observed responses arise largely from activation of presynaptic interneurons. When synaptic transmission was blocked, the number of sub-regions of the ERF was reduced, usually to a single excitatory ERF. This suggests that direct cell activation can be modeled accurately by a one-dimensional model with linear interactions between electrodes, whereas indirect stimulation due to summated presynaptic responses is nonlinear.
- functional electrical stimulation
- action potentials
- retinal ganglion cells
- electrode recording
- visible light