Kent T. Keyser, Ph.D.
Professor, Vision Sciences

Contact Information:
Office - (205) 975-7225

Physical Address:
626 Worrell Building
924 18th Avenue South

Mailing Address:
WORB 626
1530 Third Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35294-4390

Biographical Sketch:

B.A., Biology, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH
Ph.D., Neurobiology, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY

Administrative Responsibilities:

Director, Vision Science Graduate Program, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Director, High Resolution Imaging Facility, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Scholarly Activity:

VIS 729 - Introduction to Neurobiology - Co-coursemaster 
Lecture and Laboratory experiments introduce students to the neurobiology of vertebrates and invertebrates. The course is offered in August at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, AL

VIS 744 Ocular Anatomy, Physiology & Biochemistry I - lecturer 
Anatomy of the eye. biochemistry and physiology of ocular tissues, including tears, cornea, aqueous humor, lens, vitreous and sclera.

VIS 746 Retina and Subcortical Systems - lecturer
Retinal circuitry and receptive fields, including color coding, adaptation, circadian rhythms, parallel pathways, and development.

IBS 700 - IBS -I - lecturer
The purpose of this course is to provide students with a rigorous background in biological chemistry and cellular physiology

IBS 701 - IBS - II - lecturer
The purpose of this series of courses is to integrate the anatomic, physiologic, pathophysiologic and pharmacologic principles of molecular, cellular, whole tissue and organ physiology

PY 753-2E Overview of Behavioral Neuroscience - lecturer
Neural systems which control behavior will be studied, incorporating knowledge gained from neurobiological and psychological research. Topics will include synaptic communication, regulating behaviors, learning, memory, sensation and perception, movement, emotions, and psychopathology

PY 453-2E Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience - lecturer
Neurobiological and psychological research on neural systems that control behavior. Synaptic communication, regulatory behaviors, learning, memory, sensation and perception, movement, emotions, and psychopathology


Dr. Keyser's research interests center on acetylcholine (Ach) and Ach receptor expression in the retina. Acetylcholine is used as a transmitter in many portions of the vertebrate nervous system and much information is available concerning the cells that contain it and its synthesis and release mechanisms. However, until recently little was known about Ach receptors and the neurons that express them. During the past several years various groups have 1) purified the ligand-binding (a) and structural (b) subunits of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), 2) cloned their cDNAs, and 3) raised antibodies against them. These studies have revealed that there are at least 11 different subunits which, in various combinations, can theoretically yield a vast number of nAChR subtypes, each characterized by a unique subunit composition and pharmacological profile. Therefore, the effects of Ach or its agonists depends upon which receptor subtype is present. Acetylcholine is known to act as a transmitter in the retina and to affect the response properties of many ganglion cells, including those that display directional selectivity. These receptors appear to be present at both synaptic and extra synaptic locations. Dr. Keyser's research program involves the investigation of the normal pattern of expression of nAChRs in the retina during embryogenesis and in the adult animal, with the goal of understanding how activation of Ach receptor subtypes modulates visual processing. Another aspect of the research involves the detection of additional receptor subunits/subtypes and the determination of what receptor subunits are found together within individual receptor complexes. Among his long term goals are studies of the factors that regulate expression of different Ach receptor subtypes in various areas of the nervous system.


Dmitriev AV, Dmitrieva NA, Keyser KT, Mangel SC. Multiple functions of cation-chloride cotransporters in the fish retina. Vis Neurosci. 2007 Jul-Aug;24(4):635-45. PMID: 17900379

Renna JM, Strang CE, Amthor FR, Keyser KT. Strychnine, but not PMBA, inhibits neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors expressed by rabbit retinal ganglion cells. Vis Neurosci. 2007 Jul-Aug;24(4):503-11. PMID: 17900376

Strang CE, Renna JM, Amthor FR, Keyser KT. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor expression by directionally selective ganglion cells. Vis Neurosci. 2007 Jul-Aug;24(4):523-33. Epub 2007 Aug 9. PMID: 17686198

Dmitrieva NA, Strang CE, Keyser KT. Expression of alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors by bipolar, amacrine, and ganglion cells of the rabbit retina. J Histochem Cytochem. 2007 May;55(5):461-76. Epub 2006 Dec 22. PMID: 17189521

Ding C, Walcott B, Keyser KT. The alpha1- and beta1-adrenergic modulation of lacrimal gland function in the mouse. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2007 Apr;48(4):1504-10.

Strang CE, Andison ME, Amthor FR, Keyser KT. Rabbit retinal ganglion cells express functional alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2005 Sep;289(3):C644-55. Epub 2005 May 4. PMID: 15872006

Brockway LM, Benos DJ, Keyser KT, Kraft TW. Blockade of amiloride-sensitive sodium channels alters multiple components of the mammalian electroretinogram. Vis Neurosci. 2005 Mar-Apr;22(2):143-51. MID: 15935107 

Dr Jillian Meadows presents her research during the VSGP Student Seminar Series
Sponsored by the UAB VSRC, the Helen Keller Art show honors students with visual impairments for their artistic abilities and creative works.
Vision Science PhD trainee Katie Bales presents her research during the VSGP Student Seminar Series


UAB School of Optometry
1716 University Blvd
Birmingham, AL 35233
P: (205) 975-2020



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