This application requests partial funding for the conference on "Retinal Neurobiology and Visual Processing", administered by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), to be held in 2012, 2014, and 2016. The conference to be held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 2012 is the eleventh meeting in this series of highly successful biennial conferences that have established a unique forum for researchers with varied backgrounds to discuss vision. The primary goal of the meeting is to bring together participants from diverse areas of neurobiology, computational biology, and vision research to discuss state-of-the-art techniques and apply creative scientific thinking to understanding the neurobiological basis of retinal vision. Our 180 participants include both established and young investigators actively involved in retinal research, who interact extensively during the entire conference, providing a stimulating, free, and lively exchange of ideas. The programs of these conferences provide a critical review of recent research in the field, address timely questions that are of high interest to the vision community, and serve as a guidepost to future work. The major session topics for the 2012 meeting are: 1) Cell Fate, Development, and Regeneration 2) Plasticity, Repair, and Replacement in Normal and Diseased Retinas, 3) Synaptic and Visual Function in Identified Cells, 4) Modulation of Signal Transfer from Outer to Inner Retina, 5) Signaling Dynamics, 6) Computation in the Retina and Visual System, 7) Visual Processing from Retina to Cortex, and 8) Lessons from Other Sensory Systems. In addition, two interactive workshops on A Computational Toolbox for Retinal Research and on Optical Methods will be held. Finally, two special sessions feature exciting and timely work selected from submitted poster abstracts from junior colleagues. These highly popular "Data Blitz" sessions, held prior to each of our two poster sessions, provide an opportunity for 24 of our junior colleagues to present five-minute synopses of their poster presentations. This ensures active engagement of junior participants in the conference, and also serves to advertize the range of interesting topics covered in the posters. Detailed programs for the 2014 and 2016 meetings will of course be established later, to take advantage of the most recent developments, but the general scheme of covering diverse topics in visual processing and fostering engagement of junior investigators will continue at future conferences. As can be seen from the proposed program and data provided in this application, a unique goal of our meeting is to provide opportunities for pre- and postdoctoral trainees, as well as early-stage independent investigators, to meet and share their ideas with each other and with established leaders in the field. To this end, our speaker list includes a significant number of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and young investigators. Their inclusion highlights exciting new topics and promotes new members of the vision research community. Through this strategy, our conference offers opportunities for graduate students to learn about other areas of research and explore postdoctoral possibilities, and gives postdoctoral fellows a valuable chance to show that they are ready to assume junior faculty positions.
Diseases of the retina, the neural tissue that lines the back of the eye and sends information about the visual world to the rest of the brain, afflict a significant fraction of the population in the United States and the rest of the world. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 3 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from serious visual impairment, about 1 million of whom are blind. More than 1.7 million in that same age group suffer from advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Diabetic retinopathy afflicts another 4 million. Still more are affected by blindness or visual impairments from childhood onward. Basic research into the function of the healthy retina and the effects of disease on visual processing is a crucial component of the research funded by the NEI in the ongoing fight to prevent blindness. Of critical importance in this endeavor is the open exchange of new research findings among the community of vision scientists. The FASEB conference on Retinal Neurobiology and Visual Processing is the premier meeting in the field of retinal biology and visual processing. This broadly focused, cutting-edge meeting attracts the best vision scientists from around the world and provides an intimate setting to maximize scientific interactions at the highest level. This conference has been held biennially over the past 20 years and has stimulated many collaborations resulting in novel work with high impact. This exciting trend will continue with the proposed programs for the 2012, 2014, and 2016. Diverse areas of retinal research will be explored, with specific plenary sessions in 2012 addressing: cell fate, development, and regeneration;plasticity, repair, and replacement in normal and diseased retinas; synaptic and visual function in identified cells;modulation of signal transfer from outer to inner retina;signaling dynamics;computation in the retina and visual system;visual processing from retina to cortex;and insights from neuroscience research in other sensory systems. Two additional sessions are devoted to informal, interactive workshops on computational methods for retinal research and on optical methods for studying the retina. We make a strong effort at this meeting to foster participation by young people in the field: a significant number of speakers in the plenary sessions are graduate students or postdoctoral fellows, and two morning sessions feature a Data Blitz in which very brief synopses are presented by our young investigators, introducing them to the entire group and advertising their posters in our two poster sessions.