Visual Neuroscience

Center-surround organization in bipolar cells: Symmetry for opposing contrasts

a1 Department of Psychology and Physiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
a2 Departments of Psychology, Physiology, and Graduate Program of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis


Intracellular recordings were obtained from 73 cone-driven bipolar cells in the light-adapted retina of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum). Responses to flashes of negative and positive contrast for centered spots and concentric annuli of optimum spatial dimensions were analyzed as a function of contrast magnitude. For both depolarizing and hyperpolarizing bipolar cells, it was found that remarkably similar responses were observed for the center and surround when comparisons were made between responses of the same response polarity and thus, responses to opposite contrast polarity. Thus, spatial information and contrast polarity appear to be rather strongly confounded in many bipolar cells. As a rule, the form of the contrast/response curves for center and surround approximated mirror images of each other. Contrast gain and C50 (the contrast required for half-maximal response) were quantitatively similar for center and surround when comparisons were made for responses of the same response polarity. The average contrast gain of the bipolar cell surround was 3–5 times higher than that measured for horizontal cells. Contrast/latency measurements and interactions between flashed spots and annuli showed that the surround response is delayed by 20–80 ms with respect to that of the receptive-field center. Cones showed no evidence for center-surround antagonism while for bipolar cells, the average strength of the surround ranged from about 50% to 155% of the center, depending on the test and response polarity. The results of experiments on the effects of APB (100 [mu]M) on depolarizing bipolar cells suggest that the relative contribution of the feedback pathway (horizontal cell to cones) and the feedforward pathway (horizontal cell to bipolar cell) to the bipolar surround varies in a distributed manner across the bipolar cell population.

(Received April 4 2002)
(Accepted November 14 2002)

Key Words: Bipolar cells; Receptive fields; Luminance contrast; Cones; Horizontal cells; Retina; Tiger salamander.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Dwight A. Burkhardt, n218 Elliott Hall, University of Minnesota, 75 E. River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail: