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UAB researcher awarded unusual grant to better understand how vision works  
by Nicole Wyatt          

Lawrence Sincich, Ph.D., has been awarded $1.1 million to advance the technology for improved optical access and visual testing of the retina.  

   sinich grantOne University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry researcher is working toward a better understanding of how vision works with funding from an unusual type of R01 grant.

Lawrence Sincich, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Vision Sciences, has been awarded a new $1.1 million five-year R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute called a Bioengineering Research Partnership, which supports multiple labs to achieve a common goal. This collaboration includes researchers at two University of California campuses, Berkeley and San Francisco, as well as Montana State University.

“Vision begins with the array of photoreceptors in the retina, yet we have very limited access to those cells, which makes it difficult to fully understand how vision works, and how retinal pathology leads to visual dysfunction,” Sincich said.

Sincich, who is also studying the eye’s photoreceptors to better understand how color perception is ultimately achieved in the brain, is co-investigator on the BRP.

“The BRP proposes to develop three advanced instruments that will greatly improve optical access to the photoreceptors in the living eye, and enable experiments that will yield a fresh understanding of how vision works,” he said.

The instruments, Sincich says, incorporate two key technical strengths: adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (AOSLO) systems and accurate, high-speed eye-motion tracking.

“Together, these capabilities allow for the accurate visualization, tracking and delivery of light to retinal features as small as single cone photoreceptors, enabling the cellular basis of spatial and color vision to be studied with unprecedented resolution,” Sincich said.

There are two systems in the world with this capability, one at UAB and the other at UC Berkeley.

Full realization of these capabilities and broader use, however, requires a series of new and innovative technical advances as well as increased cooperation between the developers and the end users of the technology, Sincich says.

“The BRP accomplishes this by formally combining a group of labs with a proven track record of effective collaboration and with expertise in optics, engineering, electrophysiology, psychophysics, color vision, neuroscience and eye disease,” Sincich said. “In doing so, the BRP creates a uniquely effective pathway for translating newly gained knowledge and technology from an animal model to the psychophysics lab and then to a clinical setting.”

 Kraft invited to join national study section 
by Nicole Wyatt

kraft 2010Timothy Kraft, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Vision Sciences, was selected for membership in the Biology of the Visual System Study Section, Center for Scientific Review.

This study section reviews National Institutes of Health grant applications on basic biological studies of the visual system, where the major focus is on elucidation of fundamental mechanisms in the normal visual function and/or within the context of disease. Study sections also make recommendations to the appropriate NIH advisory council or board and survey the status of research in their fields of science.

Members are selected on the basis of demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors.

Kraft’s term will begin July 1, 2014, and end June 30, 2018.

nowakowski awardOptometry's Nowakowski receives high honor from the Lions of Alabama   

Rod W. Nowakowski, O.D., Ph.D., former dean of the School of Optometry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was awarded the Aubrey D. Green Humanitarian Award by the Lions of Alabama during its annual Multiple District Convention.

This award is presented to a non-member citizen or native of Alabama who has made a significant contribution to society beyond the obligations of occupation or profession. Such contributions may include, but are not limited to, the promotion of human welfare, the alleviation of human suffering and the advancement of social reforms. The recipient is selected by the committee from nominees submitted within the past five years.

“Aubrey D. Green, the namesake for the award, was a decorated WWII combat veteran, an Alabama State Senator and a business entrepreneur who also served as International Lions Club president,” Nowakowski said. “He set a very high standard for service and the prior recipients of this award are icons of service and achievement. I am truly honored and humbled to be counted among them.”

UAB vision scientist awarded $1.81 million grant for photoreceptor research
By Nicole Wyatt

New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry has been awarded $1.81 million by the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute to advance imaging of the eye’s photoreceptors and understand how color perception is ultimately achieved in the brain.

RO1_grant_sLawrence Sincich, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Vision Sciences, explained that his five-year R01 grant will allow him to image photoreceptors in real time while simultaneously stimulating them, giving him the ability to map the color sensitivity of any one of them.

“Our eyes have millions of photoreceptors, which are specialized cells that line the retina in the back of the eye,” Sincich said. “We currently don’t have a handle on how each photoreceptor gets turned into an everyday perception by the brain, so our work is designed to move toward that goal.”

With a full understanding of how the brain works still unknown, Sincich said his work will lead to further basic knowledge.



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