Motion detection by starburst amacrine cell dendrites
Click this link to see a video of multiphoton calcium imaging of starburst cell distal dendrites during motion stimulation (Chen et al, eLife 2016).
How are neural circuits assembled to perform specific computations? An excellent model system to address this question is the retina, where a diverse set of neural circuits are wired with remarkable precision and intricacy to extract salient features such as color, contrast and motion from the visual scene. Each retinal circuit utilizes distinct neuronal types and conveys the processed visual information to higher brain by a specific type of retinal ganglion cells.
We are interested in the synaptic and circuit basis of neural computation in the retina. Our current research is focused on understanding the developmental and adult patterns of synaptic connections underlying the retinal circuits, and determining how synaptic, dendritic and circuit mechanisms impact visual processing. We leverage the increasing repertoire of genetic tools that label specific retinal neuron types to target the synapses of interest, and characterize the maturation and function of these synapses using a combination of techniques including multiphoton microscopy, optogenetics, visual stimulation, electrophysiology calcium imaging and molecular biology. These studies will provide insight into the neural mechanisms of visual processing in the retina, and also have broader implications in the fundamental questions of synapse development and organization in the CNS.