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that part of the retina of which the photoreceptors (rods and cones) pertain to a single optic nerve fiber. The response of a neuron to stimulation of its receptive field depends on the type of neuron and the part of the field that is illuminated; an "on-center" neuron is stimulated by light falling at the center of its receptive field and inhibited by light falling at the periphery; an "off-center" neuron reacts in exactly the opposite fashion; that is, it is inhibited by light falling at the center of its receptive field. In either case, the net response depends on a complex switching action in the retina. When an entire receptive field is equally illuminated, the response of receptors at the center of the field predominates.
A description of the effective stimuli of a given neuron. For sensory receptor neurons, the receptive field is the type of effective stimulation (e.g., light, sound, mechanical pressure) and the range of sensitive locations (e.g., center of visual field, left auditory field, tip of right thumb).
See also: field