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Nat Neurosci. 2012 Nov;15(11):1581-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.3241. Epub 2012 Oct 21.

Divergence of visual channels in the inner retina.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Bipolar cells form parallel channels that carry visual signals from the outer to the inner retina. Each type of bipolar cell is thought to carry a distinct visual message to select types of amacrine cells and ganglion cells. However, the number of ganglion cell types exceeds that of the bipolar cells providing their input, suggesting that bipolar cell signals diversify on transmission to ganglion cells. We explored in the salamander retina how signals from individual bipolar cells feed into multiple ganglion cells and found that each bipolar cell was able to evoke distinct responses among ganglion cells, differing in kinetics, adaptation and rectification properties. This signal divergence resulted primarily from interactions with amacrine cells that allowed each bipolar cell to send distinct signals to its target ganglion cells. Our findings indicate that individual bipolar cell-ganglion cell connections have distinct transfer functions. This expands the number of visual channels in the inner retina and enhances the computational power and feature selectivity of early visual processing.

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