Dr. Christophe P. Ribelayga
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Two major and yet unanswered questions in Neuroscience are 1) How do nervous cells communicate with one another and assemble into neural networks? and 2) How plastic are these networks? In my laboratory, we use the retina-located in the back of the eye- as a model system to address these questions. Specifically, our research goals are to elucidate how the retina processes information and adapts to an environment constantly changing over the course of the day/night cycle, when ambient light intensity varies more than 1 billion-fold. We are particularly interested in understanding how endogenous mechanisms, such as circadian (24-hour) clocks modulate retinal pathways and function on a daily basis.
Ongoing projects in the lab aim at: 1) establishing the exact cellular localization of circadian clocks in the vertebrate retina; 2) identifying the effectors/outputs of the retinal clocks (e.g. neurohormones such as dopamine, adenosine, melatonin); 3) characterizing the impact of the clocks and their effectors on the activity of specific retinal neurons and functional pathways; and 4) characterizing the aging-dependent decline in retinal function and the role of circadian clocks in this process.
Ultimately, this research will provide a clearer and more complete understanding of how circadian clocks modulate daytime and nighttime vision and will help us understand the mechanisms linking circadian clock malfunction and retinal degeneration. Knowledge and principles learned from the retina should be applicable in approaching similar problems in the other parts of the brain.
A tutorial in my lab could provide experience in electrophysiology (single-cell intracellular and patch-clamp recording), neurochemistry/anatomy (intracellular dye/tracer injection, immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization), imaging (confocal imaging, digital processing), cell/molecular biology (organotypic tissue culture, neuromodulator assay-HPLC), behavioral testing (locomotor activity, visual sensitivity, pupillary light reflex) and the use of various circadian clock-deficient mouse models.