Research Interests

I have studied the mechanisms responsible for the formation of neural connections within the developing brain, focusing on the roles of neural activity and specific molecular signals. In normal development, neural connections in the central visual system are refined to high precision. My laboratory has shown that patterns of spontaneous neural activity, present before birth and continuing postnatally, play a crucial role in organizing cortical connections. Our work has distinguished the role of spontaneous activity from that of visual experience, which operates later in development principally to maintain rather than to organize primary visual cortical function. We have also distinguished some of the mechanisms that operate to arrange and re-arrange neural connections during four successive stages of central visual system development: map formation, the subsequent organization of the receptive fields of single neurons, the critical period of rapid experience-dependent plasticity, and finally the slower and qualitatively distinct plasticity of the adult cortex. Our work has advanced mathematical modeling and optical technology along with more traditional physiological, anatomical, pharmacological and genetic techniques to measure and perturb molecular signals and neural activity and reveal their interaction in organizing the visual thalamus, superior colliculus, and visual cortex and the connections among these structures.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 28: Systems Neuroscience

Secondary Section

Section 24: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience