The main objectives of this module are:
After completion of the course, students are able to
- Understand the molecular basis of visual signal transduction and relate this to genetic causes of retinal diseases.
- Explain visual field deficits in relation to the neuroanatomical properties of the retino- cortical pathway.
- Apply knowledge of the neurophysiological properties of neurons in the visual system to explain perceptual phenomena such as color vision and motion perception.
- Distinguish between processing in the ventral and dorsal stream and discuss long-standing problems in vision such as the binding problem and the role of top-down processing.
- Design and appraise experiments aimed at charactering (deficits in) visual functioning.
- Evaluate intervention therapies like gene therapy, neural implants and visual training in relation to the molecular and neurophysiological basis of vision.
Our modern understanding of vision and visual processing depends not only on the more traditional fields of anatomy, physiology and psychophysics, which remain centrally important, but also on the fields of genetics, molecular and cellular biology, ophthalmology, neurology, cognitive neuroscience and brain imaging. This course will teach visual neuroscience from a broad, interdisciplinary point of view. The aim is to provide students with an understanding of the functional anatomy and neurophysiology of the visual system, an understanding of how neural activity results in visual perception and a perspective on how this knowledge is used to treat various forms of low vision and blindness. Students will be introduced to a variety of methods for investigating visual neuroscience including molecular biology, psychophysics, single cell recording, electrophysiology, brain imaging, and the experimental study of patients with brain damage or genetic defects.
In the first part of the module, we will focus on retinal signal processing and the molecular mechanisms underlying various forms of retinal degeneration as well as different types of molecular therapy that are currently under development to intervene with this pathology. In the second part, we will study the neural basis of color vision, motion perception, visual attention and other higher- order aspects of vision with a critical examination of some of the basic issues in the field. We will discuss novel strategies to restore vision like gene therapy, neural implants and visual training in relation to the molecular and neurophysiological basis of vision.