8th Annual Pepose Award Lecture moved to Monday, March 13

Professor Frank Werblin, Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley will receive the eighth annual Jay Pepose ’75 Award in Vision Sciences from Brandeis University on Monday, March 13 (date change due to impending snowstorm). The event will be held at 4 PM (room to be announced). At that time, Werblin will deliver a public lecture titled, “The Evolution of Retinal Science over the Last 50 Years.”

During his research, Professor Werblin identified a number of cellular correlates underlying visual information processing in the retina. He has authored many articles in peer-reviewed journals, and has contributed articles on retinal circuitry to the Handbook of Brain Microcircuits (Oxford University Press) and retinal processing in the Encyclopedia of the Eye (Elsevier). Werblin founded Visionize in 2013, a company dedicated to helping patients suffering from vision diseases that cannot be corrected with glasses or surgery.

The Pepose Award is funded by a $1 million endowment established in 2009 through a gift from Jay Pepose ’75, MA’75, P’08, P’17, and Susan K. Feigenbaum ’74, P’08, P’17, his wife. Pepose is the founder and medical director of the Pepose Vision Institute in St. Louis and a professor of clinical ophthalmology at Washington University. He founded and serves as board president of the Lifelong Vision Foundation, whose mission is to preserve lifelong vision for people in the St. Louis community, nationally and internationally through research, community programs and education programs. While a student at Brandeis, he worked closely with John Lisman, the Zalman Abraham Kekst Chair in Neuroscience and professor of biology at Brandeis.

7th Annual Jay Pepose Award to be presented April 12 at 12:30 pm

David WilliamsDavid Williams from the University of Rochester has been selected to receive the 7th annual Jay Pepose ’75 Award in Vision Sciences. Williams will be presented with the Pepose award on Tuesday, April 12th at 12:30 pm in Gerstenzang 121. The celebration will include David Williams talk titled, “Seeing Through the Retina”.

Williams’ research has improved the effectiveness of laser refractive surgery, the design of contact lenses, and enabled the imaging of single cells in the retina.

William T. Newsome to Receive 2015 Pepose Award on March 18

William NewsomeWilliam T. Newsome, a Stanford neuroscientist, will receive the 6th annual Jay Pepose ’75 Award in Vision Science on March 18. Newsome will deliver a lecture, “A New Look at Gating: Selective Integration of Sensory Signals through Network Dynamics,” on March 18 at 4:00 PM. The lecture will be held in Gerstenzang 121 and is open to the public.

Professor Newsome’s research at Stanford has helped scientists better understand the connection between visual perception and visually guided behavior. Newsome is the Harman Family Provostial Professor at the Stanford School of Medicine and is the Vincent V.C. Woo Director of the Stanford Neuroscience Institute.

The Pepose Award is funded by a $1 million endowment through a gift from Brandeis alumni Jay Pepose ’75, MA’75, P’08, P’17, and his wife,  Susan K. Feigenbaum ’74, P’08, P’17, through the Lifelong Vision Foundation. The endowment also supports graduate research fellowships in vision science.

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How seeing can change what you see

We sometimes take it for granted how the way we see enables us to perceive and interact with the world, but how our visual system works is amazing. It’s an intricately choreographed process – from the light that comes into our eyes, to the way that our brains carry that information and form it into an image we can understand. If brain cells are improperly connected during growth and development, or if part of the system is destroyed by injury, all kinds of visual havoc can be a result. But how does a brain get wired properly in the first place?

 In a paper in the Journal of Neuroscience last week, Professor Steve Van Hooser’s lab reported some of the effects of experience on development. The new paper shows evidence that neurons in all layers of the visual cortex aren’t just ‘born’ with the right connections between the parts of the brain that control vision. According to their data, the act of seeing itself makes changes in how the neurons process visual information. The lab is continuing their studies of brain circuits to uncover how, during development, the act of seeing changes how you see.
Clemens JM, Ritter NJ, Roy A, Miller JM, and Van Hooser SD. The Laminar Development of Direction Selectivity in Ferret Visual Cortex. J. Neurosci. 12 December 2012, 32(50): 18177-18185. 

Michael Stryker to deliver Pepose Vision Sciences Award Lecture on March 12

This year’s Pepose Award in Vision Sciences, funded by an endowment from Brandeis graduates Jay Pepose (’75) and his wife, Susan Feigenbaum (’74), will be awarded to Michael Stryker, the William Francis Ganong Professor of Physiology at UCSF.  Dr. Stryker, who has been a faculty member at ‘SF since 1978, has been at the forefront of vision research for decades.  His lab has used a variety of animal models to probe cortical development and plasticity in the visual system, and developed a variety of techniques to analyze and measure these changes, often resulting in images that are visually inspiring in their own right (Figure, below).

This top down view of cat visual cortex shows color coded orientation columns, using a continuous-periodic imaging paradigm developed in the Stryker lab.

As a postdoc at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Stryker worked with Nobel Laureates Torsten Wiesel and David Hubel, whose groundbreaking research using the visual cortex of cats provided a first glimpse into cortical organization, development, and plasticity.  By studying how the responsiveness of neurons in visual cortex changes as a result of visual deprivation, Hubel and Wiesel pioneered a model for developmental neurobiology and introduced us to concepts like ocular dominance, orientation columns, and critical periods, a foundation upon which Dr. Stryker has built much in the subsequent decades: describing the arrangement of orientation maps in pinwheels; probing the role of spontaneous retinal activity in producing these maps; highlighting the importance of ongoing developmental activity using visual deprivation and pharmacological activity blockades; and more recently examining the molecular substrates of these changes using the genetically accessible murine model.  His career spans the visual field from its foundational work to the most modern, and with no end in sight!

Join us on March 12, 3:45 pm in Gersetnzang 121 as he accepts the award and delivers a public lecture on “Rewiring the Brain: Mechanisms of Competition and Recovery of Function in the Mammalian Cortex“.

A biologically plausible transform for visual recognition

People can recognize objects despite changes in their visual appearance that stem from changes in viewpoint. Looking at a television set, we can follow the action displayed on it even if we don’t look straight at it, if we sit closer than usual, or if we are lying sideways on a couch. The object identity is thus invariant to simple transformations of its visual appearance in the 2-D plane such as translation, scaling and rotation. There is experimental evidence for such invariant representations in the brain, and many competing theories of varying biological plausibility that try to explain how those representations arise. A recent paper detailing a biologcally plausible algorithmic model of this phenomenon is the result of a collaboration between Brandeis Neuroscience graduate student Pavel Sountsov, postdoctoral fellow David Santucci and Professor of Biology John Lisman.

Many theories of invariant recognition rely on the computation of spatial frequency of visual stimuli using the Fourier transform. This, however, is problematic from a biological realism standpoint, as the Fourier transform requires the global analysis of the entire visual field. The novelty of the model proposed in the paper is the use of a local filter to compute spatial frequency. This filter consists of a detector of pairs of parallel edges. It can be implemented in the brain by multiplicatively combining the activities of pairs of edge detectors that detect edges of similar orientations, but in different locations in the visual field. By varying the separation of the receptive fields of those detectors (thus varying the separation of the detected edges), different spatial frequencies can be detected. The model shows how this type of detector can be used to build up invariant representations of visual stimuli. It also makes predictions about how the activity of neurons in higher visual areas should depend on the spatial frequency content of visual stimuli.

Sountsov P, Santucci DM, Lisman JE. A Biologically Plausible Transform for Visual Recognition that is Invariant to Translation, Scale, and Rotation. Frontiers in computational neuroscience. 2011;5:53.

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