Early Visual System

The overall goal of our lab is to understand how complex visual scenes are represented in the central nervous system.  Our current understanding of the brain suggests that basic features of images are represented in primary visual cortex (Area 17) and that more abstract aspects of the scene like illusory contours or differences in texture are represented in higher cortical areas based on the output of Area 17.  For example, neurons in Area 17 would detect the edges of the floral rug and the pattern of the flower weave, but higher cortical areas extract the shape of the toy hidden under the rug.  While the classical model of brain organization suggest that the higher cortical areas build their representation from the simple representation in the primary visual cortex, it is possible that many of the abstractions are encoded much earlier in the visual system (in the retina or the lateral geniculate nucleus [LGN]).  This possibility has been ignored because it is assumed that abstraction is too complex for anything but cerebral cortex.  The proposed experiments challenge this assumption, and ask whether the pro9perties of the neurons before cortex make them able to extract behaviorally important information from a scene.  Specifically, the proposed research will use targeted microelectrode recordings to determine if and how neurons in the LGN encode a particular class of abstract image features known as second-order image features.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The role of microglial lysosomes in selective neuronal vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the nervous system constructs internal models of the external world
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the orchestra of movement—functional role of striatal astrocytes in health and disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…