Retinal Plasticity: Migration and Rewiring of the Retinal Neurons

Photoreceptors shifting from the unaffected areas fill-in the damage zone, rewire to local bipolar cells, and thereby restore retinal structure and function.We recently discovered that adult mammalian retina has remarkable potential for restorative plasticity: after selective photocoagulation of photoreceptors, while preserving the inner retinal neurons, photoreceptors from adjacent areas can migrate into the damaged zone, as opposed to formation of permanent scars in more intense lesions. Migrating photoreceptors establish synapses with local inner retinal neurons, thereby restoring retinal responses to light, including ON and OFF pathways. This way retinal scotomata and scarring can be avoided, thus ameliorating many deleterious side effects of conventional photocoagulation.

We study the mechanisms of retinal response to thermal injury, associated neural plasticity, and its effects on retinal circuitry and associated signal processing. In particular, we study the dynamics and extent of plasticity and rewiring in adult mammalian retina, and potential applications of this effect to modeling and therapy of retinal degeneration.

We also study the effects of chronic electrical stimulation of the retinal neurons on structure and function of normal and degenerate retina.