Although our work is mostly carried out on the retina, all the problems we work on have relevance to the rest of the brain.
Our lab works on different aspects of the retina as a neural machine. We examine the details of the "wiring" in the retina and use electrophysiological methods to describe the signal processing properties of individual neurons.
Based on our experiments we have created mathematical models to understand why the retina is assembled the way that it is.
A few years ago we began looking at the physiology of synapses using cultured retinal neurons. Cultured neurons offer the advantage that synapses between two neurons can be examined in isolation with out the confounding effects of synapses from other neurons. Using this preparation we are currently looking in high resolution at the details of synaptic transmission and its control.
Current Research Interests
We are focusing our effort on two key effectors of synaptic transmission:
- First, we are studying how calcium ions control the release of neurotransmitters. It has been known for a long time that calcium plays a crucial role in this process but the mechanism is largely unknown and is likely to be complicated and subtle. Fortunately, calcium indicator dyes in combination with our fluorescence imaging system make it possible to answer some important questions in this area (see image at right).
- Secondly, we are interested in discovering how certain proteins influence neurotransmitter release. Neurons of the inner retina contain dozens of protein neuromodulators, many of which also bind calcium ions.