William Taylor, Professor

Open (1) Immunohistochemical analysis of genetically identified inhibitory interneurons in the mammalian retina

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

The eye is like a camera, with the retina representing the sensor that converts the image into electrical signals. The retina is different in that it simultaneously generates 20-30 versions of the image, and relays each to the brain in parallel. Each version of the image is generated by a different array of identical neural circuits that tessellate the entire retina. Our goal is to understand what information these neural circuits are extracting from the visual scene, how the information is encoded, and how the circuitry adjusts the neural coding in response to changes in the statistics of the visual input.

The 20-30 parallel visual images generated in the retina rely upon diverse populations of neurons, including inhibitory interneurons called amacrine cells. Uncovering both the structure and function of these amacrine cells is a key step in understanding how the diversity of retinal output is generated.

You’ll use fluorescence microscopy and immunohistochemistry to analyse the properties of genetically labeled populations of amacrine cells in mouse retina. The goal will be to determine how many distinct sub-types are labelled, and begin to investigate their function and connectivity.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Joseph Leffler, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Previous coursework in biology, neuroscience, or chemistry would be desirable. Curiosity and a desire to answer basic research questions and learn the nitty-gritty of how sensory systems function is a must.

Weekly Hours: 9-12 hrs

Related website: http://vision.berkeley.edu/

Open (2) Designing more natural visual stimuli to probe the function of retinal circuits

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

To probe the function of neural circuits in the retina, we generally use simple visual images that can be precisely defined, like circles, annuli, gratings (stripes), etc. While neural responses elicited by such stimuli are relatively straightforward to interpret, they do not replicate the complex images encountered in the wild, and therefore might not provide a robust test of visual processing. We are developing our visual stimulus software so that we can generate stimuli that are precisely defined, and yet more closely match the spatial and temporal structure of the images falling on the retina under natural conditions

In this project, you will assist in writing and editing code to generate and display visual stimuli (movies) to specific cell types in the retina. The student will be trained in retinal neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, and will be expected to take part in wet-lab experiments using the new developments.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Joseph Leffler, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Proficiency in computer programming (e.g. Python), as well as an interest and basic knowledge of biology. This project may be ideal for a student majoring in neuroscience, computer science, or bioengineering who is interested in putting their technical skills to work in a basic research setting.

Weekly Hours: 9-12 hrs

Related website: http://vision.berkeley.edu/