The primary interest of our research is to study the mechanisms underlying age-related visual system diseases that affect man. In particular, we are interested in searching for gene mutations that cause photoreceptor cell degeneration. Using a behavioral assay based on visually mediated escape responses, we screen for mutants (in zebrafish, a vertebrate model for molecular genetics) that show abnormal visual behaviors, i.e., night blind. We characterize the mutants at both molecular and system levels.
Another major interest of our research is to study the modulatory effect of intrinsic and environmental cues on visual sensitivity. In a 24-hour period, zebrafish are most sensitivity to light in the late afternoon and least sensitive in the early morning. This is controlled by endogenous circadian clocks. A number of factors, for example, the release of dopamine and centrifugal input from the olfactory bulb may affect the circadian rhythms of visual sensitivity. We are interested in understanding how that happens.