As a part of the retina, the bipolar cell exists between photoreceptors (rod cells and cone cells) and ganglion cells. They act, directly or indirectly, to transmit signals from the photoreceptors to the ganglion cells.
Bipolar cells are so-named as they have a central body from which two sets of processes arise. They can synapse with either rods or cones (but not both), and they also accept synapses from horizontal cells. The bipolar cells then transmit the signals from the photoreceptors or the horizontal cells, and pass it on to the ganglion cells directly or indirectly (via amacrine cells). Unlike most neurons, bipolar cells communicate via graded potentials, rather than action potentials.