Understanding how the retina works

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Understanding how the retina works

Malcolm M. Slaughter, associate professor of biophysical sciences, physiology and ophthalmology, has been awarded a $1 million, five-year grant by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on how the retina works.

The retina is a light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye's inner surface. Its nerve cells convert light energy into nerve impulses, which are transmitted to the brain. Slaughter's research has application to future treatments for diseases of the vision system, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetes retinopathy.

Funds will support intensive studies in which retinal slices from amphibians, whose retinas are similar to those of humans, are bombarded with computerized images. By recording the electrical activity in specific nerve cells when subjected to these visual stimuli, the researchers can begin to determine the function of each nerve cell and how it contributes to the ability to see.