PhDUniversity of Illinois at Chicago, 1993
The goal of my research is to understand how experience differentially influences the juvenile versus adult mammalian brain. A primary focus is the role of experience in the regulation of the visual system. Pioneering work in the mammalian visual system demonstrated a significant decline in experience-dependent synaptic plasticity over the course of postnatal development. One of the severe consequences of the loss of experience-dependent synaptic plasticity is the inability to recover from form-deprivation amblyopia (Amblyopia ex anopsia) caused a unilateral congenital cataract. If untreated, neurons in the binocular cortex become dominated by the unaffected eye, and resistant to recovery by removal of the cataract. Recently we have developed a method (binocular visual deprivation through dark exposure) that allows for the recovery from severe amblyopia in rodents, even when a monocular occlusion is initiated immediately at eye opening and continues until adulthood. This work was recognized with the 2010 Advancement of Science Award by the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association. Currently, we are using a multidisciplinary analysis that includes electrophysiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and behavior to characterize the functional consequences, and the molecular mechanisms, by which dark exposure promotes the recovery from chronic deprivation amblyopia.