Fox collaboration aims to understand retinal neuronal targeting

Michael Fox, Ph.D.

Michael Fox, Ph.D.

Michael Fox, an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, has been awarded a grant in collaboration with Jason Triplett of the Children’s National Medical Center to investigate how neurons in the brain develop precise connections within a network.

The award is part of a new partnership between the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, the Children’s National Medical Center, and George Washington University to seed seven yearlong projects in hopes they will result in publications and the submission of interinstitutional research grant applications to federal agencies.

To process external stimuli, the organs for our senses must make precise connections with the central nervous system during development. Due to the ease with which scientists can access the organs and neurons involved in sight, it is a favorite subject of research projects studying neural targeting.

Retinal ganglion cells maintain an exact spatial relationship from their origin on the retina to their termination in the brain. In addition, each class of retinal ganglion cell extracts different forms of information from the visual scene, such as contrast, color, or motion, preserving parallel channels of information.

The scientists will investigate whether the maintenance of spatial relationships and the development of parallel channels of information are interrelated. The investigators will also study the molecular mechanisms that give rise to each phenomenon.