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Plasticity in ferret visual cortex

Trainee Achievements

Plasticity in ferret visual cortex

Biological Sciences student David Whitney and his advisor, Professor Justin Crowley, study plasticity in the ferret visual cortex using optical imaging. Working with Dr. Fred Wolf in the Max-Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Whitney investigated a novel manipulation that uses blue light to stimulate cortical tissue that has been transfected using a viral vector containing Channelrhodopsin-2. When the light is paired with a visual stimulus containing edges at a specific orientation, neurons alter their responses. Whitney's results show that this neural plasticity effect is not uniform across the visual cortex as might be expected. Instead, the response differed as a function of distance from so-called 'pinwheel regions" where cells with all different orientation tunings meet., and as a function of the region's pre-existing bias in orientation preference. These results show that optical stimuation is an effective tool for probing cortical plasticity mechanisms.