The Fong Lab seeks to understand how activity and experience shape neural circuits, and to develop plasticity-based interventions for treating neurological disorders. We use a variety of experimental approaches and engineering tools to achieve these goals. Current work focuses on the central visual pathway and neurodevelopmental visual impairment.
Experience-dependent plasticity in visual circuits
Visual deprivation is a classic paradigm for studying how transient disruptions to sensory experience can drive long-term plasticity in the brain. We investigate how the quality of visual experience differentially impacts activity statistics in the visual thalamus and cortex, and design tools to probe causal relationships between altered activity statistics and long-term plasticity.
Neural interfaces for biasing plasticity
With any perturbation to activity or experience, the probability that a neural circuit will undergo plasticity is state-dependent. For instance, the capacity for plasticity tends to decline with age, lending support to the concept of critical periods. We develop neural interfaces and control architectures for precisely regulating spiking to create activity states that support plasticity at the cellular, synaptic, and circuit levels.
Plasticity-based interventions for visual impairment
Amblyopia is a widespread neurodevelopmental visual impairment that arises from maladaptive plasticity during infancy or early childhood. We aim to develop novel therapeutics for amblyopia that leverage our knowledge of plasticity at different ages and disease severities. Treatment strategies range from neuroprosthetic implants that directly stimulate the brain to minimally invasive manipulations to visual experience or behavior.