Professor
Interim Director, Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program
email
Campbell Hall 229
(205) 934-2694

Research Interests: Retinal physiology and anatomy in normal and disease processes, retinal prostheses

Frank AmthorOffice Hours: By appointment

Education:
  • BS, Cornell University, Bioelectronic Engineering
  • PhD, Duke University, Biomedical Engineering
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, UAB, School of Optometry

My career has been devoted to understanding neural computation, both for its own sake and for the sake of making neural prosthesis that restore and augment human function. My specific research has been to investigate complex neural computations in retinal ganglion cells, the first locus in the visual system of highly specific and nonlinear analyses such as motion and directional selectivity.

The first task I took on as a retinal researcher was to identify, by intracellular recording and staining, all the major ganglion cell classes in a mammalian retina (rabbit), including directionally selective, orientation-selective and edge-detecting ganglion cells. My colleagues and I have shown that the morphologies of at least 20 different physiological classes of rabbit retinal ganglion cells are distinct, and typically associated with important physiological properties of each class. Most of these classes are likely to be highly conserved across mammals, including primates. Following this necessary, pioneering, and now classic work, I investigated the retinal circuitry and mechanisms underlying complex receptive field properties such as directional selectivity, including the receptor types exhibited by various ganglion cell classes, and their projection targets in the brain in order to understand the role of different ganglion cell classes in various aspects of visual acuity and perception.

These investigations have used virtually the entire suite of single cell neurophysiological techniques, including single cell extracellular recording, sharp electrode intracellular recording and staining, patch clamp recording, optical imaging with both calcium and potentiometric dyes, dual electrode recording, and, most recently, microelectrode array recording. This research has been supported by the NEI over a continuous, 20-year period of support. Some computational aspects were also supported by the Sloan Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, while the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama has supported some efforts that have clinical implications.

Curriculum Vitae

  • Ming-Liang Pu (Vision Science), “The dendritic characteristics of ganglion cells projecting to the nucleus of the optic tract and dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of the rabbit” (1990)
  • David Merwine (Vision Science), “Analysis of the center-surround interaction of rabbit retinal ganglion cells: physiology and pharmacology” (1997)
  • Darrel Tjepkes (Behavioral Neuroscience), “A role of NMDA channels in rabbit retinal directional selectivity” (1999)
  • Christianne Strang (Behavioral Neuroscience), “The expression and function of neuronal nicotinic receptors in rabbit retina” (co-mentored with Dr. Kent Keyser) (2004)
  • Brian Reed (Vision Science), “Neuronal nicotinic receptor subtypes that modulate the responses of directionally selective ganglion cells in rabbit retina” (co-mentored with Dr. Kent Keyser) (2004)
  • PY 753/453: Fundamentals of Behavioral Neuroscience
  • PY 793/463: Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Amthor, F. R., Oyster, C. W. & Takahashi, E. S. (1984). Morphology of ON-OFF direction-selective ganglion cells in the rabbit retina. Brain Research, 298(1), 187-190.
  • Amthor, F. R., Takahashi, E. S., & Oyster, C. W. (1989) Morphologies of rabbit retinal ganglion cells with concentric receptive fields. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 280(1), 72-96.
  • Amthor, F. R., Takahashi, E. S., & Oyster, C. W. (1989) Morphologies of rabbit retinal ganglion cells with complex receptive fields. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 280(1), 97-121.
  • Oyster, C.W., Amthor, F. R., & Takahashi, E. S. (1993) Dendritic architecture of ON-OFF direction-selective ganglion cells in rabbit retina. Vision Research, 33(5-6), 579-608.
  • Amthor, F. R., & Grzywacz, N. M. (1993) Inhibition in On-Off directionally selective ganglion cells in the rabbit retina. Journal of Neurophysiology, 69(6), 2174-2187.
  • Grzywacz, N. M. & Amthor, F. R. (1993) Facilitation in On-Off directionally selective ganglion cells in the rabbit retina. Journal of Neurophysiology, 69(6), 2188-2199.
  • Amthor, F. R., Keyser, K. T. & Dmitrieva, N. A. (2002) Effects of the destruction of starburst-cholinergic amacrine cells by the toxin AF64A on rabbit retinal directional selectivity. Visual Neuroscience, 19(4), 495-509.
  • Amthor, F. R., Tootle, J. S. & Grzywacz, N. M. (2005) Stimulus-Dependent correlated firing in directionally selective retinal ganglion cells. Visual Neuroscience, 22(6), 769-787.
  • Grzywacz, N. M. & Amthor, F. R. (2007) Robust directional computation in on-off directionally selective ganglion cells of rabbit retina. Visual Neuroscience, 24(4), 647-661. doi:10.1017/S0952523807070666
Current and past professional affiliations
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • Society for Neuroscience
Professional activities
Ad hoc reviewer for: Vis-C study section, NIH, National Science Foundation, Journal of Comparative Neurology, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, Visual Neuroscience, Journal of Neurophysiology, Vision Research