Position title: Assistant Professor (Neuroscience)
1111 Highland Ave
Madison, WI 53705
Neuroscience, Max-Planck Institute, Goettingen University, Germany
Cellular, synaptic and circuit mechanisms that shape visual signaling in the mammalian retina
Our visual system provides a unique opportunity to identify fundamental mechanisms of neuronal signaling that give rise to a meaningful interpretation of our natural surroundings. We study visual signaling in well-defined circuits of primate and mouse retina that encode distinct aspects of a natural scene. Our recent work provided the first insight into the inner workings of the fovea, a specialized region in primate retina that accounts for ~50% of the retinal output and dominates our everyday visual experience. We are tracing the origin of visual perceptions not only to retinal circuit function but in some cases all the way to the molecular mechanism of phototransduction – a common G-protein signaling cascade in biology. Understanding neuronal function in the retina provides us a baseline for exploring physiological properties of stem cell derived retinal neurons. We utilize a range of techniques such as electrophysiology, optical imaging, anatomical analysis by light and electron microscopy, transcriptomics and transgenic tools to dissect the molecular, anatomical and functional diversity of retinal circuits.
Neural signaling in the mammalian retina is heavily perturbed in disease conditions both at a morphological and functional level. For instance, retinal diseases that attack the fovea such as macular degeneration have a debilitating effect on our quality of life. Impaired central vision makes it almost impossible to carry out everyday tasks such as reading, writing, driving, recognizing faces. Foveal photoreceptors are damaged in macular degeneration, and their death is what causes blindness in this disease. A goal of our research is to understand how our central vision is initiated in the foveal photoreceptors to not only devise better diagnosis for macular degeneration but also to leverage the fundamental knowledge of foveal function with designing therapeutic interventions as a way to ultimately cure such forms of blindness.