Support is requested for a training program to five predoctoral and one postdoctoral trainee per year, in a university-wide training program in visual science, at the systems, cellular, and molecular levels. Training focuses on analysis of the visual pathways from retina to brain, and cellular, molecular and genetic aspects of the normal and diseased eye, in both basic science and disease-oriented research. Thirty-five faculties are distributed on two campuses of Columbia University: Twenty-eight of these faculties are in basic and clinical science departments on the Health Sciences Campus, 168th Street and Broadway, and 7 are drawn from four departments from the main (Morningside) campus at 116th and Broadway. Faculty mentors are largely drawn from the new Department of Neuroscience and the Department of Ophthalmology. Section 1 (Systems/Computation) includes 14 faculty focused on the visual and oculomotor systems in humans and monkeys using neurophysiology, psychophysics, computational modeling, and imaging. These faculties are in the Departments of Psychology, Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience, with 6 investigators in the Mahoney Center studying the primate visual cortex;they use an fMRI facility in the Neurological Institute, and participate in the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience. Three faculties in Section 2 (Development and Plasticity) focus on cell specification, retinal axon guidance, and biophysics and plasticity of dendrites and cortical circuitry, and are in the departments of Genetics, Pathology and Cell Biology, Neuroscience, and Biological Sciences. Section 3 (Molecular/Genetic Approaches to the Normal and Diseased Eye) is composed of 18 faculty in the Department of Ophthalmology, Biochemistry, Medicine, Pediatrics and Chemistry, who study retinal degeneration, retinoid processing, and the genetics, diagnostics and therapy of retinal disorders, with a focus on macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, and retinopathy of prematurity. The research carried out by the mentors and trainees matches the goals in NEI's long-standing plan for eye and vision research for retinal diseases, cornea, and lens and cataract programs, as well as the strabismus, amblyopia and visual processing. Support is sought for up to three years for predoctoral students who have chosen a lab and project and for one year for an entering postdoctoral trainee. Trainees will be recruited from several selective graduate programs such as the MD-PhD program, Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior, and Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical studies, and by advertisement. Through activities such as courses, thesis committees, symposia, seminars, and a Greater New York Vision Club (Vision), it is expected that faculty and trainees will continue to interact, and produce a new generation of vision scientists who will further elucidate information processing, development, and disease in the visual system.
The goal of the proposed program is to support student and postdoctoral trainees in vision research - to expand their understanding of current basic and clinical issues on the eye and visual pathways, and to provide professional career development. Areas of strength of the program include studies of higher-level influences on visual perception, of development and cellular organization of visual circuitry, and of genetics and cell biology of retinal degeneration. This training will help produce the next generation of scientists who will tackle perturbations of vision at these levels of analysis.
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