Jose-Manuel Alonso MD, PhD
SUNY Optometry, Biological Sciences
Current Position: Professor of Biological Sciences
Keywords Research Areas: visual cortex thalamus attention receptive field
Research Focus:
  • Central Visual Processing
Clinical Relevance:
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology
Synopsis Of Research:

FUNCTIONAL CIRCUITRY OF THE VISUAL THALAMUS AND CORTEX My laboratory is interested in understanding how the brain processes visual information. We pursue this general goal by investigating how neurons connect to each other and the role of these connections in constructing precise representations of the visual world in the brain. Most of our work focuses on two main structures early in the visual pathway: the thalamus and the primary visual cortex. These two structures have the most detailed representation of visual space in the brain and constitute the entrance of visual information to the cerebral cortex. Disruption of the circuits from thalamus and primary visual cortex leads to cortical blindness: a lack of vision that can not be treated by restoring eye function. Disruption of thalamic and cortical circuits can result as a consequence of eye disease, neurodegenerative disorders and brain insults. In my laboratory, we investigate the neuronal circuits of thalamus and visual cortex by using state-of-the-art technology that includes multielectrode/imaging recording from neuronal populations and computational modeling. Specific approaches are: a) study visual responses from multiple neurons under different stimulus conditions; b) identify neurons that are directly connected and study the response properties at the two poles of the connection; c) measure synchronous firing generated by different types of neurons and investigate its role in visual processing; d) study the role of populations of neurons in encoding visual information; e) study the role of alertness, visual attention and task difficulty in modulating neuronal responses; f) study changes in thalamo-cortical circuits that result from the local inactivation (or stimulation) of small groups of neurons. Our laboratory is proud to collaborate with other outstanding research teams within and outside SUNY Optometry. Two of our most productive, current collaborations are with Prof. Swadlow at the University of Connecticut, Department of Psychology and with Prof. Stanley at Georgia Tech and Emory University, Department of Biomedical Engineering. A better understanding of how neural circuits process visual information is essential to develop new strategies for the treatment and prevention of visual disorders. The long-term goal of our laboratory is to generate breakthroughs that make these new treatment and prevention approaches possible.

Current Or Representative Publications:
  1. Chen, Y., Martinez-Conde, S., Macknik, S.L., Bereshpolova, Y., Swadlow, H.A., Alonso, J.M. (2008) Task difficulty modulates the activity of specific neuronal populations in primary visual cortex. Nat Neurosci 11 (8): 975-982. (Featured in News and Views and rated as â??must readâ?? by Faculty 1000).
  2. Jin, J. Z., C. Weng, C. I. Yeh, J. A. Gordon, E. S. Ruthazer, M. P. Stryker, H. A. Swadlow and J. M. Alonso (2008). On and off domains of geniculate afferents in cat primary visual cortex. Nat Neurosci 11(1): 88-94. (Cover of this Nature Neuroscience issue and cover selected to represent Nature Neuroscience in the 2009 Calendar of Nature journals).
  3. Lesica, N. A., J. Jin, C. Weng, C. I. Yeh, D. A. Butts, G. B. Stanley and J. M. Alonso (2007). "Adaptation to Stimulus Contrast and Correlations during Natural Visual Stimulation." Neuron 55(3): 479-91.
  4. Alonso, J. M., W. M. Usrey and R. C. Reid (1996). Precisely correlated firing in cells of the lateral geniculate nucleus. Nature 383(6603): 815-9.
  5. Reid, R. C. and J. M. Alonso (1995). Specificity of monosynaptic connections from thalamus to visual cortex. Nature 378(6554): 281-4.

State University of New York Medical Centers & College of Optometry Consortium

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