A new type of neuron, or nerve cell, has been discovered in the retina by scientists at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah.

A complex group of neurons communicate with each other in the central nervous system, relaying sensory and motor information. These interneurons are an essential aspect of communication. This finding marks a breakthrough for scientists who are working toward a better understanding of the central nervous system. By identifying and classifying all neurons, researchers can more easily distinguish between different aspects.

A research team led by Ning Tian, Ph.D., identified the interneuron in the mammalian retina. Tian said, “Based on its morphology, physiology, and genetic properties, this cell doesn’t fit into the five classes of retinal neurons first identified more than 100 years ago. We propose they might belong to a new retinal neuron class by themselves.”

The new neuron is dubbed Campana after a handbell, resembling its shape. Campana cells are able to transmit visual signals in the retina, but the exact function is yet to be determined.

Tian said, “In the brain, persistent firing cells are believed to be involved in memory and learning. Since Campana cells have a similar behavior, we theorize they could play a role in prompting a temporal ‘memory’ of a recent situation.”

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