The visual system is a part of the central nervous system that provides one of our primary interfaces with the environment. It detects and encodes highly complex features of our surrounding world at an amazing rate to produce sophisticated perceptions that guide our behavior. Remarkably, it completes this task over an absolutely stunning dynamic range, more than 10 log units of input intensity! Vision research seeks to reveal the functional architecture and the neuronal mechanisms that underlie this amazing capability, as well as the developmental processes that have produced it, and the disease processes that compromise it.
The Visual Neuroscience track within the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston Neuroscience Program encompasses vision research at all levels. The group has particular strengths in development, synaptic and cellular mechanisms and circuitry of the retina, and in cortical circuits that produce visual behavior. Disciplines represented among the faculty include molecular and developmental neurobiology, cell biology, cellular biophysics, structural biology, genetics, anatomy and plasticity of neural circuitry, circadian biology, experimental pathology, single electrode and electrode array recording, intrinsic optical imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), cognitive and behavioral studies, and computational modeling. The goal of the Visual Neuroscience track is to provide an interdisciplinary training environment to prepare students for a successful career in neuroscience. Students will be trained in vision research through both didactic and laboratory experience. The primary goal will be for each student to conduct original research and to publish his or her findings in peer-reviewed journals.
Tutorial Rotations: Graduate students in the Visual Neuroscience track, like all students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, are expected to complete three research tutorial rotations during their first academic year. Since students are admitted to the Program without a specific laboratory affiliation, these tutorial rotations provide the incoming students the opportunity to experience, first hand, three different aspect of neuroscience research. Only at the end of the tutorial rotations are students expected to select a laboratory to conduct their continued graduate research training.
Students in the Visual Neuroscience track are required to take the core Neuroscience Program curriculum, which is generally completed in the first year. These courses include:
- GS140063 Molecular Neurobiology (Waxham)
- GS140143 Cellular Neurophysiology (Heidelberger)
- GS1400173 Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience (Pending new director)
- GS140024 Systems Neuroscience (Dragoi)
- GS210051 The Ethical Dimensions of the Biomedical Sciences
- GS 14 1181 Graduate Neuroanatomy
Additional course requirements will depend on the student’s background and will be decided upon in consultation with the thesis advisor and Advisory Committee. Since the Visual Neuroscience track encompasses areas of research that may overlap broadly with the Cell and Molecular Neuroscience, Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience, or Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience tracks, any of the intermediate and advanced course offerings in those tracks may be appropriate. Consultation with one of the track directors, John O’Brien and Daniel Felleman, is recommended when deciding on a curriculum.
Courses recommended for most students in this track include:
- GS140073 Visual Science I (Mills) ‘Retinal Mechanisms’
- Visual Science II (Felleman) ‘Cortical Mechanisms’ (Course number TBA)AND a course in statistics, e.g.:
- GS010014 Biomedical Statistics (White) or
- Rice Psychology 502 Advanced Psychological Statistics I or
- Rice Psychology 503 Advanced Psychological Statistics II
Additional courses available to the students include, but are not limited to:
- GS140123 Cellular Neurobiology: Biophysical (Heidelberger)
- GS140023 Cognitive Neuroscience (Pending new director)
- GS140113 Advanced Topics in Systems Neuroscience (Dragoi)
- GS141022 Theory, Content, and Execution in Cognitive Neuroscience (Wright)
- GS140021 Current Topics in the Neurobiology of Disease (Byrne)
- GS140081 Seminar in Neural Coding and Behavior (Dragoi)
- GS140153 Theoretical Neuroscience: Cells Circuits and Systems (Shouval)
- GS140163 Theoretical Neuroscience: Learning Perception and Cognition (Shouval)
- GS140111 Seminar in Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience (Shouval)
- Rice Psychology 521 Perception (faculty?)
- Rice Psychology 581 Vision Science (faculty?)
Houston Area Vision Training Program (T32 EY007024 – Massey): A cross-institutional training grant to support vision research training at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston and the University of Houston.
Core Grant for Vision Research (P30 EY10609 – Massey): Supports vision research through several core facilities and services. Modules include Biostatistics, Imaging, Molecular Resources, Computer Software and Hardware support, and Gene Microarray.