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Physiology, plasticity and pathological conditions of the visual system

This research project focuses on the function and plasticity of the visual system, in both physiological and pathological conditions. The Institute has published key advances on the control of the sensitive period for plasticity, and on the reinstatement of plasticity in adult animals and man. Our studies have unveiled promising potential therapies for retinal degenerations and for the treatment of amblyopia (“lazy eye”).

Our recent reports have highlighted a crucial role for environmental influences in the control of retinal degeneration and visual cortical plasticity. Raising animals in an “enriched environment” slows down photoreceptor cell loss in retinitis pigmentosa, and boosts adult neural plasticity. At the molecular level, major cascades regulating cortical plasticity have been identified, including epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation and histone acetylation. A crucial role for GABAergic neurotransmission has been identified in the control of network rearrangements. Environment- and pharmacologically-driven enhancements of plasticity are actively being explored as potential treatments to limit deterioration of function in human subjects with cognitive impairment or neurodevelopmental disorders.


Laura Baroncelli  Alessandro Sale Enrica Strettoi
Nicoletta Berardi (Associate)  Tommaso Pizzorusso (Associate)   Lamberto Maffei (Associate)