Current Research and Scholarly Interests
We study how the circuitry of the retina translates the visual scene into electrical impulses in the optic nerve. Visual perception is initiated by the molecules, cells and synapses of the retina, acting together to process and compress visual information into a sequence of spikes in a population of nerve fibers. One of the largest gaps in neuroscience lies in the explaining of systems-level processes like visual processing in terms of cellular-level mechanisms. This problem is tractable in the retina because of its experimental accessibility, and the substantial amount already known about basic retinal cell types and functions.
Our goal is to extract general principles of computation in neural circuits, and to explain specific retinal visual processes such as adaptation to contrast and image statistics, and the detection of moving objects. To do this, we use a versatile set of experimental and theoretical techniques. While projecting visual scenes from a video monitor onto the isolated retina, an extracellular multielectrode array is used to record a substantial fraction of the output of a small patch of retina. Simultaneously, we record intracellularly from retinal interneurons in order to monitor and perturb single cells as the circuit operates. To measure the activity of both populations of interneurons and output neurons, we record visual responses optically using two-photon imaging while simultaneously recording with a multielectrode array. Finally, all of this data is assembled and interpreted in the context of mathematical models to predict and explain the output of the retinal