All of our behaviors, thoughts and perceptions stem from the activity of neural circuits: highly precise sets of connections formed between specific types of neurons.
The three major goals of our laboratory are to:
A cornerstone our work is the identification of genes that are selectively expressed by functionally specialized neurons in the eye and brain. This allows us to delineate the specific circuit connections made by those neurons and to monitor and manipulate their activity during perceptual and behavioral tasks. It also allows us to probe the genes used by those neurons during development to find and form connections with their appropriate synaptic partners.
Extending from these studies of the healthy brain is the exciting opportunity to address whether the mechanisms that assemble functionally precise visual circuits during development can be reactivated in response to diseases that normally cause irreversible blindness, such as glaucoma. To that end, we are using molecular genetic approaches to preserve and re-wire damaged visual circuits, and then testing what sorts of visual perceptions and behaviors those circuits can support.
A genetically identified retinal ganglion cell (RGC) expressing green fluorescent protein. In red are the processes of the interneurons that connect with this RGC and in blue are other RGCs and interneurons. RGCs such as this one connect to the brain and thus are essential for vision.