Welcome to the Huxlin Lab
My research aims to understand how the damaged, adult visual system can repair itself. To what extent can it do so? What are the principles governing such processes? How can knowledge we gain enhance vision restoration efforts?
The Visual Retraining Laboratory studies visual training as an approach to induce visual recovery after visual cortex damage in adulthood. Psychophysical techniques are used to both measure and retrain visual performance. In the past, neurochemical studies in an animal model allowed us to correlate neuronal changes with the degree and type of recovery attained as a function of training. For the last 10 years, we have applied this knowledge to devise increasingly effective training paradigms for humans with cortical blindness (a.k.a. hemianopia, quadrantanopia or cerebral visual impairment). Key to this effort has been our ability to use attentional manipulations, early training, multisensory integration and non-invasive, transcranial electrical stimulation to enhance visual recovery in these patients. Collaborative, functional MRI and animal studies are also being conducted to provide deeper insights into how the remaining visual circuitry is altered by both damage and training. This body of work aims to improve our understanding of the plasticity inherent in brain-damaged individuals with vision loss, and help design better treatments for this underserved patient population.
Collaborators: Duje Tadin (BCS), Marisa Carrasco (NYU), David Heeger (NYU), Elisha Merriam (NIH), Holly Bridge (Oxford), Gabriel Diaz (RIT), Ross Maddox (NSC), Martina Poletti (BCS), Farran Briggs (NSC)
The Corneal Wound Healing Laboratory studies the interplay between corneal wound healing and optical quality of the eye. The eye provides sensory input to the entire visual system and it relies on a transparent and properly-shaped cornea to do so. Our laboratory is unique in having developed a behaviorally fixating animal model in which we can reliably measure optical aberrations of the eye with the same degree of precision (and using the same instruments) as in humans. We have used this unique animal model to study corneal damage and scarring - one of the major causes of blindness world-wide, and for which there is currently no effective treatment. This allows us to directly correlate optical aberrations, corneal structure and biology in health and disease. Ongoing work focuses on nerve regeneration in the context of corneal wounds. Specifically, it explores molecular pathways that control key aspects of corneal healing, nerve regrowth and the interaction between them. Multidisciplinary studies like this are intended to provide the complex knowledge necessary to design better ways of correcting refractive error, and treating corneal wounds for our increasing patient population.
Collaborators: Scott MacRae (Ophthalmology), Kye-Im Jeon (Ophthalmology), Keith Nehrke (Nephrology)
Finally, by applying the knowledge gained in our Corneal Wound Healing work in concert with our commercial partner Clerio Vision Inc., our team of collaborators is working to develop what we hope will be a safe, non-damaging form of laser refractive correction. This method named IRIS or LIRIC works using a completely novel approach, to correct refractive errors in the eye. It can be performed directly in the cornea, the native lens, or in contact lenses and artificial intraocular lenses. Instead of ablating tissue or material to change its shape, LIRIC uses a focused femtosecond laser in a multi-photon regime, to alter the material’s internal refractive index, thus altering its light-bending properties. This fully-customizable method appears to cause no corneal scarring or long-term detrimental effects to ocular health. As such, it opens up a new area of theoretical investigations into cornea and lens biology related to laser-tissue interactions, and a whole new paradigm for vision correction in humans.
Collaborators: Wayne Knox (Optics), Jonathan Ellis (UArizona), Amy Lerner (BME), Paul Funkenbusch (MechE), Scott MacRae (Ophthalmology), Geunyoung Yoon (Ophthalmology), Len Zheleznyak (Clerio Vision), Sam Butler (Clerio Vision)