Zrenner Lab

Experimental Retinal Prosthetics Group

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Research Subjects

Retinal prosthetics

As human life expectancy increases, blindness and visual impairment due to degeneration of the light responsive cells of the eye – photoreceptors – becomes ever more significant. Thousands of laboratories are pursuing solutions to this problem. To date, one of the most successful approach has been the implantation of devices – like Tuebingen’s Alpha-AMS implant – to electrically stimulate the remaining neuronal cells of the eye. Responding to input from an electronic camera these neurons then communicate visual information to the brain. Thus the natural vision that has been lost to blind patients is replaced with bionic vision.

In the Experimental Retinal Prosthetics Group, we conduct basic research (Grundlagenforschung) on electrical stimulation of the retina toward the goal of improving current retinal implants and guiding the design of future devices.



  • SysRetPro:  SYStems neuroscience in service of the next-generation RETinal PROsthesis.
  • Optimization of electrical stimulation parameters for the retina.
  • Refining the Retinal Implant:  Spatiotemporal interactions of electrical desensitization in multiple mouse retinal ganglion cell types.
  • In vitro chip setup.
  • Selective ON/OFF stimulation of the retina in visual prostheses.
  • Visual Prostheses Database.

Neural coding in the mammalian retina

The study of neural coding for visual and electrical stimulation in the retina encompasses a wide range of topics including the following.

  • Identification and parameterization of the stimulus domain (in space, time, spectral frequency, etc.) to which a neuron responds.
  • The pattern of spiking or depolarization elicited in a neuron by selected stimuli (rate and temporal coding).
  • Statistical descriptions of how stimulus and response patterns correlate (encoding).
  • Context-dependencies of neuronal responses such as luminance adaptation, contrast gain control, behavioral state-dependencies, electrical desensitization, perceptual fading, etc.
  • Pattern of responses across a neuronal population (population coding).
  • How responses of single neurons and neuronal populations can be decoded to reveal the stimulus that elicited them (decoding).


  1. Hosseinzadeh Z, Jalligampala A, Zrenner E, Rathbun DL.  “The spatial extent of epiretinal electrical stimulation in the healthy mouse retina.”  Neurosignals.  2017 Jul 26;25(1):15-25.
  2. Sekhar S, Jalligampala A, Zrenner E, Rathbun DL.  “Correspondence between visual and electrical input filters of ON and OFF mouse retinal ganglion cells.”  J. Neural Eng. 2017 May;14(4):046017.

    Jalligampala A, Sekhar S, Zrenner E, Rathbun DL.  "Optimal Voltage Stimulation Parameters for Network-Mediated Responses in Wild Type and rd10 Mouse Retinal Ganglion Cells.” J. Neural Eng.  2017 Apr;14(2):026004.

    Sekhar S, Jalligampala A, Zrenner E, Rathbun DL.  “Tickling the Retina: Integration of Subthreshold Electrical Pulses can Activate Retinal Neurons.”  J. Neural Eng. 2016 Aug;13(4):046004.
  3. Rathbun DL, Alitto HJ, Warland DK, Usrey WM.  “Stimulus Contrast and Retinogeniculate Signal Processing.” 
    Front. Neural Circuits.  2016 Feb:10(8)
  4. Wibral M, Rathbun D, Usrey WM, Bastos A, Wollstadt P.  “One man's prediction is another man's error –
    quantifying predictive coding at the retino-geniculate synapse independent of the observer's assumptions.”  Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Chicago IL, October 2015
  5. Graef K, Rathbun D, Schaeffel F.  “Processing of Defocus in the Chicken Retina.”  International Myopia Conference,
    Wenzhou, Zhejiang, P.R. China Sept 2015
  6. Moore BD, Rathbun DL, Usrey WM, Freeman RD.  “Spatiotemporal Flow of Information in the Early Visual Pathway.”  Eur. J. Neurosci.  2014 Feb:39(4):593-601.
  7. Alitto HJ, Moore BD IV, Rathbun DL, Usrey WM.  “A Comparison of Visual Responses in the Lateral Geniculate Nucleus of Alert and Anesthetized Macaque Monkeys.”  J. Physiol. 2011 Jan 1;589(Pt 1):87-99. 
  8. Rathbun DL, Warland DK, Usrey WM.  “Spike Timing and Information Transmission at Retinogeniculate Synapses.”  J. Neurosci. 2010 Oct;30(41):13558-66.
  9. Rathbun DL, Usrey WM  “Geniculo-Striate Pathway.”  Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. 
    eds. Binder MD, Hirokawa N, Windhorst U.  2009 p.1707-1710
  10. *Rathbun DL, *Pandya PK, Moucha R, Engineer ND, Kilgard MP.  “Spectral and Temporal Processing in Rat
    Posterior Auditory Cortex.” Cerebral Cortex 2008 Feb;18(2):301-14 (* joint first-authorship)
  11. Rathbun DL, Alitto HJ, Weyand TG, Usrey WM.  “Interspike Interval Analysis of Retinal Ganglion Cell Receptive
    Fields.”  J Neurophysiology 2007 Aug; 98(2):911-9

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