Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Science and of Neurobiology
Neuroscience; Development; Visual System; Neural Circuits; Transgenic approaches; Direction Selectivity
Current ProjectsOur current research involves both retina (light-sensitive layer of eye) and brain targets: 1) Retina project includes investigating how retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) acquire specific morphological structure during development and how they eventually recognize distinct visual cues (e.g. color, motion). We are examining potential effects of overexpression and knock-out of candidate genes on structural development and functional specification of distinct subsets of RGCs that may lead to alteration in visual perception. 2) Brain project focuses on investigating how distinct visual information from the retina - perceived by different types of RGCs - is processed in the brain. Studies include the search of brain neurons receiving specific visual cues (e.g. direction selectivity) from the retina and examination of development of unique connections between the retina and the brain.
Our laboratory is interested in understanding how neural circuits form and function to elicit appropriate behavior, and how they can be modified by experience. Orderly and specific patterns of neuronal wiring are critical to trigger coherent responses to sensory inputs. Conversely, mistakes in connectivity may lead to altered behaviors observed in disorders such as autism or schizophrenia. It is therefore essential to learn how neurons choose synaptic partners as they “wire up” the developing brain and maintain such connections throughout life. To study mechanisms of neuronal wiring, we have focused on the visual system. The success of our research will provide novel insights into the cellular basis of visual perception and will allow to generate new methods to examine neural circuitry in the normal brain and in animal models of of neurological and psychiatric diseases.