Journal of Neurophysiology

Microcircuitry related to the receptive field center of the on-beta ganglion cell

E. Cohen, P. Sterling


1. We have investigated the anatomic basis for the Gaussian-like receptive field center of the on-beta ("X") ganglion cell in the area centralis of cat retina. Three adjacent on-beta cells were reconstructed from electron micrographs of 279 serial sections cut vertically through a patch of retina at approximately 1 degree eccentricity. 2. All the bipolar synapses on these cells were identified, and about one-half of these were traced to type b1 bipolar cells, which formed a regular array in the plane of the retina. 3. On average, seven b1 cells contributed to a beta cell: bipolar axons near the middle of the beta dendritic field tended to give many contacts (12-33 contacts); axons near the edge of the field tended to give few contacts (3-4 contacts). 4. Each b1 cell collected from four to seven cones, and the mean number of cones converging through the b1 array to a beta cell was 30. 5. Assuming equal effectiveness for all b1----beta cell synapses, a spatial weighting function was derived from these results. The mean radius of this function at 1/e amplitude for three beta cells was 18.0 +/- 1.1 (SD) microns. This is considerably narrower than the corresponding measurements of the beta cell receptive field center (28 +/- 3 microns) at this eccentricity. 6. It is concluded, in agreement with previous work, that all cones encompassed by the beta cell's dendritic field and those slightly beyond it connect directly to the beta cell via the b1 bipolar cell array. However, the center of the beta cell receptive field is still broader by approximately 60%. This suggests that pooling of cone signals may occur at the level of the outer plexiform layer.