​Graduate Student Seminar

Seminar | October 2 | 12-1:30 p.m. | 489 Minor Hall

 Cecile Fortune, Flannery Lab; Kelly Byrne, Silver Lab

 Neuroscience Institute, Helen Wills

Kelly Byrne (Michael Silver Lab)

Title: The relationship between cholinergic enhancement and visuospatial perception

Abstract: Acetylcholine (ACh) is synthesized in the basal forebrain and diffused widely throughout the brain, exerting diverse neuromodulatory effects. Animal physiology studies indicate that in visual cortex, ACh modulates spatial integration by changing neuronal receptive field properties. Specifically, increased cortical ACh both increases the gain of feedforward thalamocortical connections and decreases that of feedback intracortical connections. As a result, the spatial extent of integration for a given visual cortical neuron is reduced. Similarly, systemic cholinergic enhancement in humans reduces the spatial spread of excitatory responses in early visual cortex as measured by fMRI. Despite these findings, the consequences of reduced spatial integration for human perception are poorly understood, and have proven inconsistent across similar tasks and different individuals. In this talk, I will describe an ongoing dose-response study in which I am employing behavioral pharmacology and psychophysics to examine the relationship between cholinergic enhancement and the spatial resolution of visual perception.

Cecile Foutuny (John Flannery Lab)

Title: Characterizing molecular mechanisms of non-coding region mutations in inherited retinal diseases

Abstract: Recent advances in whole genome sequencing have highlighted the role of non-coding regions in genetic human diseases, thought until recently to be non-functional. However, we have yet to understand and characterize the complex pathways and mechanisms affected in patients possessing mutations in non-coding regions. My thesis work proposes to elucidate the molecular mechanisms behind untranslated region (UTR) mutations in a severe and early onset case of Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA). Missense mutations in the coding region of a LCA gene lead to severe retinal degeneration and blindness early in life. However, two 5’UTR mutations were recently discovered in unrelated families with typical LCA9-associated phenotypes. My project aims at characterizing how these 5’UTR mutations disrupt normal gene regulation and affect the retina in order to design novel therapies to treat such genetic diseases.