Abstract The retina is a complex circuit of the central nervous system whose aim is to encode visual stimuli prior the higher order processing performed in the visual cortex. Due to the importance of its role, modeling the retina to advance in interpreting its spiking activity output is a well studied problem. In particular, it has been shown that latent variable models can be used to model the joint distribution of Retinal Ganglion Cells (RGCs). In this work, we validate the applicability of Restricted Boltzmann Machines to model the spiking activity responses of a large a population of RGCs recorded with high-resolution electrode arrays. In particular, we show that latent variables can encode modes in the RGC activity distribution that are closely related to the visual stimuli. In contrast to previous work, we further validate our findings by comparing results associated with recordings from retinas under normal and altered encoding conditions obtained by pharmacological manipulation. In these conditions, we observe that the model reflects well-known physiological behaviors of the retina. Finally, we show that we can also discover temporal patterns, associated with distinct dynamics of the stimuli.