Daniel Kerschensteiner, MD

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences

Neural circuit assembly and visual processing in the retina Read More

Email: kerschensteinerd@wustl.edu
Lab Phone: (314) 747-5625
Website: Kerschensteiner Lab
Lab Location: McMillan 109
Keywords: imaging, mathematical modeling, neurobiology, physiology, synapse biology, vision

Neural circuit assembly and visual processing in the retina

The goals of our research are to understand the principles that guide the assembly of neural circuits and to decipher the way they process information.

We currently concentrate on the mammalian retina, the neural circuit lining the back of the eye which translates and encodes visual information contained in the incidence of photons focused by the optical elements of the eye. Using this circuit as a model system we try to understand how developing neurons self-organize into precisely connected circuits, how individual cells attain input-output balance as they integrate into emerging circuits, how neurons allocate cellular resources to support structural rearrangements underlying circuit refinement and, finally, how different circuit elements interact to perform sensory computations.

We combine imaging, electrophysiology and molecular biology to address our questions.

  • We use genetic tools – stable and transient – to selectively label and modify specific types of neurons and subcellular structures.
  • We try to develop and deploy novel biomolecular sensors that allow us to directly observe neural signals and cell biology in intact circuits.
  • We exploit laser scanning 2-photon and confocal microscopy to reconstruct circuits and live image synaptogenesis.
  • We simultaneously record spikes from many retinal ganglion cells (i.e. the retinal output) on planar arrays of 252 electrodes and present artificial and naturalistic visual stimuli (i.e. input to the retina) to describe the input-output transformation of the retinal circuitry.
  • We combine patch-clamp recordings and 2-photon imaging to track the processing of visual signals among successive neurons of the retinal circuitry and reveal synaptic and dendritic mechanisms that perform specific sensory computations.