Field Lab Research

The Field Lab studies how the retina encodes visual scenes and transmits this information to the brain.  Research questions that we are activity pursuing in the lab include:

  • How does the retina adapt its encoding to accommodate changes in light level between night and day? 
  • How do the 75 different types of neurons in the retina work together to encode visual scenes?
  • How do different sources of synaptic inhibition in the retina tune signal processing?
  • What properties are common and different among retinas of different mammalian species?
  • What are the evolutionary origins of primate vision?
  • How is retinal function altered in retinal degenerative diseases?
  • How can we cure retinal diseases and restore the normal function of the retina?

We use a wide variety of approaches to tackle these questions.

  • Large-scale multi-electrode array recordings from retinal ganglion cells.
  • Two-photon calcium imaging of neural activity in the retina.
  • Chemogenetic manipulation of neural activity.
  • Advanced analysis tools from computational and theoretical neuroscience.
  • Transgenic mouse lines and cell-type specific viral delivery of genes to retinal neurons.
  • Patch-clamp recordings of neural activity.

Our lab collaborations broadly with other labs at Duke and around the country to further our understanding of retinal function and the neural mechanisms that give rise to vision.

  • We collaborate with the lab of Dr. Jeremy Kay at Duke to understand how the genetic programs that dictate the wiring of retinal neurons during development shape retinal function.
  • We collaborate with the theorist Dr. Henry Greenside in the Physics Department at Duke to uncover the theoretical underpinnings by which the retina encodes visual scenes.
  • We collaborate with Dr. Jeanie Chen (USC) and Dr. A.P. Sampath (UCLA) to uncover the capacity of the retina to recover from degeneration.
  • We collaborate with Dr. Nicholas Brecha and Dr. Steven Barnes at UCLA to understand how retinal interneurons shape the processing of visual input.

Field Lab Members Research

Each image shows a high resolution measurement of the receptive field of a retinal ganglion cell. Each of these ganglion cells encodes a different aspect of the visual scene and transmits that information to a different location in the brain

Image of a piece of mouse retina on an electrode array with 512 electrodes. The hexagonal grid of black dots is the electrode array. The retina was from a genetically modified mouse with some ganglion cells expressing a green fluorescent reporter.

Labeled network of retinal horizontal cell from a tree shrew retina.  In addition to having a remarkable visual system, tree shrews are an important species for understanding the early evolution of primate vision.