Thesis: The role of ephrin-A in the developing visual system
The brain is a complex and highly ordered structure, however it is not fully known how connections between the various components form. This project aims to investigate this development by focusing on the endogenous ligand ephrin-A and its receptor EphA; prior work in this area has raised many questions about their roles. Visual system circuitry is established during development such that accurate representations of the visual field remain in register throughout the brain. Graded expression of the repellent ephrin-A ligands and their receptors, EphAs, contribute to this topographical development. Previous research of ephrin-A knockout mice has shown disrupted topography in the projections from the retina (retinocollicular) and from the primary visual cortex (corticocollicular) to the superior colliculus (a visual centre of the midbrain). There are also abnormalities in functional mapping of the visual field (electrophysiology) and visuomotor tracking. However, it is not clear to what role visual experience and pre-existing maps have in combining with ephrin-A in shaping visual system circuitry. This project is investigating how brain circuitry develops, and how the components of these networks affect one another such that inaccurate map development can either be overcome or transferred through the pathways.
Why my research is important
Understanding how the central nervous system develops, and in particular the complex circuitry between the various specialised subregions, is crucial to furthering our knowledge of brain functioning. In particular, abnormal brain wiring, which may occur during disease or after injury, needs to be investigated along with possible mechanisms which may help to repair or reorder the inaccurate connections.