Bipolar cells

Bipolar cells

Bipolar cells, a type of neuron found in the retina of the human eye connect with other types of nerve cells via synapses. They act, directly or indirectly, as conduits through which to transmit signals from photoreceptors (rods and cones) to ganglion cells.

There are around 12 types of bipolar cells and each one functions as an integrating centre for a different parsing of information extracted from the photoreceptors. So, each type transmits a different analysis and interpretation of the information it has gathered.

The output of bipolar cells onto ganglion cells includes both the direct response of the bipolar cell to signals derived from photo-transduction but also responses to those signals received indirectly from information provided by nearby amacrine cells that are also wired into the circuitry.

We might imagine one type of bipolar cell connecting directly from a cone to a ganglion cell that simply compares signals based on differences in wavelength. The ganglion cell might then use the information to determine whether a certain point is a scene is red or green.

Not all bipolar cells synapse directly with a single ganglion cell. Some channel information that is sampled by different sets of ganglion cells. Others terminate elsewhere within the complex lattices of interconnections within the retina so enabling them to carry packets of information to an array of different locations and cell types.