An important mechanism for the discrimination of direction of motion in the retina is a spatially asymmetric inhibition. This inhibition has been postulated to operate either as a subtraction, like in difference-of-Gaussians. models, or as a division, like in shunting-inhibition models of directional selectivity. The latter, but not the former, is nonlinear. This raises the question of whether the inhibitory mechanism involved in directional selectivity is nonlinear. To investigate this issue, we studied the linearity of the contrast dependence of the extracellularly recorded responses to apparent motions in ON-OFF directionally selective ganglion cells of the rabbit retina. The results show that the inhibition underlying directional selectivity is nonlinear and fits shunting-inhibition models well. Other biophysical mechanisms that might account for the type of nonlinearity observed in the data are also considered. © 1991, Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.