Dr. Chichilnisky is a systems neurobiologist who explores how the retina of the eye processes and transmits visual information to the brain. His laboratory focuses on the study of retinal ganglion cells, which are the output neurons of the retina that send visual information to the brain in their spatio-temporal patterns of electrical activity. The brain processes this incoming information to implement perception, visually guided movements, and other essential vision-dependent functions. The goal of the Chichilnisky lab is to understand signaling by the retina, its impact on vision, and the implications for treating vision loss.
Some of the specific research questions the Chichilnisky laboratory is currently asking include:
- How do distinct ganglion cell types sample a visual scene?
- How is color information represented in their population activity?
- How does correlated firing between cells influence visual signaling?
- How reliably can visual stimuli be inferred from retinal signals?
- Can electrical stimulation reproduce visual signals sent to the brain?
The laboratory techniques used include using large-scale multi-electrode recordings from the retina to study multiple retinal ganglion cell types. By measuring patterns of electrical activity in response to visual stimuli, more information regarding the mechanisms underlying retinal processing can be elucidated than ever before. These measurements are also combined with multi-electrode electrical stimulation of the retina for the design of retinal prostheses. To make such measurements possible, Dr. Chichilnisky’s laboratory collaborated with physicists Dr. Alan Litke and Dr. Wladek Dabrowski to develop 512-electrode electrophysiological recording and stimulation systems that can monitor and manipulate the activity of hundreds of retinal ganglion cells simultaneously.