The spatial tuning of steady state pattern electroretinogram in multiple sclerosis

Benedetto Falsini, Giovanni Porrello, Vittorio Porciatti, Antonello Fadda, Tommaso Salgarello, Marco Piccardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In normal subjects, the steady-state electroretinogram in response to contrast reversing gratings (PERG), is spatially band-pass tuned in amplitude, with a maximum at intermediate spatial frequencies and an attenuation at lower and higher ones. The amplitude attenuation at low spatial frequencies is believed to reflect centre-surround antagonistic interactions in the receptive fields of inner retinal neurons. The aim of this study was to evaluate the PERG spatial tuning in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients without a previous optic neuritis history. Steady-state PERGs in response to counterphase-modulated (8 Hz) sinusoidal gratings of variable spatial frequency (0.6, 1.0, 1.4, 2.2 and 4.8 c/deg), were recorded from 18 patients with definite or probable MS and no history of optic neuritis (ON-). Nine of them had no signs of subclinical optic nerve demyelination (asymptomatic) in either eye, while nine had symptoms or signs of optic pathways involvement (symptomatic) in one or both eyes. Results were compared with those obtained from 10 MS patients with a previous history of optic neuritis (ON+) in one or both eyes, as well as from 21 age-matched controls. The amplitudes and phases of the responses' 2nd harmonics were measured. Compared with the controls, asymptomatic ON- patients showed selective losses in mean PERG amplitudes at medium and high (1.0-4.8 c/deg) spatial frequencies. Symptomatic ON- patients and ON+ patients had reductions in mean PERG amplitudes, with respect to controls, involving the whole spatial frequency range, but with greater losses at medium-high (1.0-4.8 c/deg) than at lower spatial frequencies. In all patients' groups, the average PERG spatial tuning function differed significantly from that of the controls, assuming a low-pass instead of the normal band-pass shape. The PERG phase was delayed in ON+ but not in ON- patients, as compared to controls. However, the phase delay was independent of spatial frequency. In both ON- and ON+ patients, losses in PERG amplitude and spatial tuning tended to be associated with corresponding abnormalities in perimetric sensitivity, visual acuity, colour vision and transient visual evoked potential (VEP) latency. The results indicate that abnormalities of the spatial tuning of steady-state PERG can be found in MS patients without either optic neuritis or signs of subclinical optic nerve demyelination. These changes may reflect a retinal dysfunction, developing early in the course of MS, due to a loss of specific subpopulations of inner neurons, changes in lateral interactions of their receptive fields, or both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Pattern electroretinogram
  • Retinal ganglion cells
  • Spatial tuning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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