The Berson Lab

We are working to understand what the eye tells the brain about the visual world. We explore the structure and function of ganglion cells, the retinal neurons that communicate directly with the visual centers of the brain. There are roughly two dozen types of ganglion cells, each with functional properties and synaptic connections that appear to be matched to the requirements of specific visual behaviors. Much of our work concerns a bizarre new family of ganglion cells that are true photoreceptors; they express the unique photopigment melanopsin and respond directly to light like rods and cones. These cells synchronize the biological clock and constrict the pupil, among other functions. We are also exploring ganglion cell types that encode motion of the retinal image and stabilize our view of the world as we move within it. We use electrophysiology, functional imaging, anatomical analysis, and transcriptional profiling to understand how these cells work and how their signals are used by the brain during development and in adulthood.