Interdisciplinary PhD Training in the Neurosciences
Judith A. Hirsch
Department of Biological Sciences/Neurobiology
Neuroscience Graduate Program
The brain is able to translate pixelated retinal signals into a coherent perception of the visual world. Our research explores how the early visual pathway contributes to this task. Past studies concentrated on the primary visual cortex. Our current focus is the visual thalamus, including the lateral geniculate and overlying thalamic reticular nucleus. We ask how retinal input coupled with circuits intrinsic to thalamus help resolve elements of the visual scene and transmit information downstream. The main approach is whole-cell recording with dye-filled electrodes in vivo, complemented with other physiological and anatomical techniques. Thus, we are to resolve synaptic integration during vision and correlate physiological response with position in the local microcircuit. Further, we maintain ongoing collaborations with theorists, which help to guide experimental design and develop methods to analyze and model the unique types of data we obtain.
Individual projects are designed to explore key aspects of thalamic integration such as interaction between synaptic input and intrinsic properties of the membrane, implications of retinal divergence and convergence and specialization of local inhibitory circuits for feature detection and information processing.