The Chichilnisky Lab Research

The goal of our research is to understand how the neural circuitry of the retina encodes visual information, and to use this knowledge in the development of artificial retinas for treating incurable blindness.

In our basic research, we use unique large-scale multi-electrode recordings to study visually evoked activity in hundreds of retinal ganglion cells of multiple types, simultaneously. We ask questions such as these:

• How do patterns of activity in many cells represent the visual scene?
• What distinct aspects of vision are mediated by different cell types?
• How reliably can the brain infer visual stimuli from retinal signals?
• Can we mimic the function of the retina with computational models?

We use this knowledge in the development of advanced artificial retinas. Although artificial retinas exist today, they provide only limited visual function to patients. Our goal is to build a device that can produce a naturalistic visual signal by mimicking the neural code of the retina. We ask questions such as these:

• What patterns of retinal activity can be produced by electrode arrays?
• How can we optimize stimulation to send the most effective visual signal?
• How can we engineer an implanted device that provides effective artificial vision?

In the long run, our understanding of the retinal circuitry and how to interface effectively to it will be relevant for developing many other interfaces to the brain, both for treating disease and for augmenting human capabilities.