An extended 15 Hz ERG protocol (1): The contributions of primary and secondary rod pathways and the cone pathway

Mieke M C Bijveld*, Astrid M L Kappers, Frans C C Riemslag, Frank P. Hoeben, Anne C L Vrijling, Maria M. Van Genderen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The minimum in the amplitude versus flash strength curve of dark-adapted 15 Hz electroretinograms (ERGs) has been attributed to interactions between the primary and secondary rod pathways. The 15 Hz ERGs can be used to examine the two rod pathways in patients. However, previous studies suggested that the cone-driven pathway also contributes to the 15 Hz ERGs for flash strengths just above that of the minimum. We investigated cone pathway contributions to improve upon the interpretation of (abnormal) 15 Hz ERGs measured in patients. We recorded 15 Hz ERGs in five healthy volunteers, using a range of flash strengths that we extended to high values. The stimuli were varied in both colour (blue, green, amber, and red) and flash duration (short flash and square wave) in order to stimulate rods and cones in various ways. The differences in the responses to the four colours could be fully explained by the spectral sensitivity of rods for flash strengths up to approximately 12.5 log quanta-deg-2. At higher flash strengths, higher-order harmonics appeared in the responses which could be attributed to cones being more sensitive than rods to higher frequencies. Furthermore, the amplitude curves of the blue and green responses showed a second minimum suggesting rod to cone interactions. We present a descriptive model of the contributions of the rod and cone pathways. In clinical application, we would advise using the short flash flicker instead of the square wave flicker, as the responses are of larger amplitude, and cone pathway contributions can be recognized from large higher-order harmonics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-159
Number of pages11
JournalDocumenta Opthalmologica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • 15 Hz flicker
  • Cone pathway
  • Cones
  • ERG
  • Primary rod pathway
  • Rods
  • Secondary rod pathway


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