Our mission is to serve as the catalyst for vision research, and our
highest priority is to foster interactive, interdisciplinary, and translational
studies of how the visual system functions in health and disease.

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McPherson ERI InSights

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|June 2010 | April 2010 | February 2010 | November 2009 |

Point of View

No Words Required - Summer 2010
Clinical electrophysiology provides a number of non-invasive diagnostic tools for assessing human and animal health. Electrocardiography (ECG) records heart function and alerts us to heart rhythm abnormalities; electroencephalography (EEG) records brain function and helps to diagnose stroke, tumors, and seizure disorders.

Through Many Lenses - Spring 2010
From domestic, agricultural, and exotic animal species across the country and the world — including dog, cat, horse, cow, sheep, walrus, walleye, gecko, giraffe, sturgeon, sandhill crane, polar bear, penguin, bat, boa constrictor, octopus, owl, and more.

Visualization: Seeing to Understand - Winter 2010
Vision is our primary mode of information gathering. So much of what we know is acquired through vision, that we commonly use the phrase “I see” to mean that we understand. Thinking in pictures, we use the expression “mind’s eye” to reference the imagery we experience within our brains as we remember and reconstruct faces or landscapes, or as we literally envisage new scenes, inventions, and connections. Our ability to visualize—an integral part of human consciousness—supports learning and creativity

Light from an Inner Eye - Fall 2009
Clownfish and sea anemones, remoras and sharks, bees and flowers, ants and aphids, fungi and trees, and mistletoe and live oaks are all examples of visible symbiotic relationships. Symbiosis, in the classical sense, is defined as two dissimilar organisms of different species living together in close association. Yet far more widespread than these observable alliances are the invisible animal-microbial partnerships often essential to human and animal health and survival.

Taking Cues from Nature - Summer 2009
Nature’s inspiration — long evident in art, music, architecture, philosophy, and education — is increasingly apparent in science and engineering. Looking to nature’s genius as the consummate problem-solver, researchers have modeled wind turbines on whale fins, a universal radio chip on the inner ear, and water-repellant fabrics and paint on the surface structure of the lotus leaf. Hongrui Jiang, PhD, seeks insight through understanding the remarkable models natural vision systems provide.

Eye-Catching! - Spring 2009
Four key visual cues spark brain response. Color captures interest and signals contrast. Warm colors, comprised mainly of red, orange and yellow, are vivid in nature and tend to advance in space, so we notice these first. Cool colors, largely of green, blue and violet, are soothing in nature and tend to recede. Form defines outside edges, relief against camouflage or light on dark, from which we quickly discern patterns leading to image recognition. Depth gives sense of space, size and perspective, so we experience “closer” as “larger” and “ farther” as “smaller.” Movement heightens attentiveness, insists on being followed, and when implied using blur or wavy lines, leads the eye and induces feelings of motion.

Ready, See, Go! - Winter 2009
A scene in the movie “Awakenings,” based on the book by Oliver Sacks, shows a woman who shuffles as she walks to a water fountain. With this slow, hesitant gait characteristic of parkinsonism, she progresses steadily over the high contrast, black-and-white tile floor. But she halts abruptly, unable to proceed, when the floor surface changes to solid gray. The presence of visual stimuli (for her, the high contrast flooring) can often help patients with Parkinson’s disease overcome their movement disability; but absent visual contrast (the solid gray floor), their internal ability to generate movement is inoperable.

Under Pressure: Preventing Cell Death - Fall 2008
It is often said in research that for every question answered, ten more are created. This is true for molecular and developmental biologist Robert W. Nickells, PhD, professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and a member of the UW Eye Research Institute, who has devoted the past 17 years to researching the multivariate aspects of glaucoma — each discovery opening new pathways to explore.

On the Tip of Your Tongue - Summer 2008
Imagine your world limited to light perception only, your blindness necessitating reliance upon guide dog, white cane, and exploratory touch. Aimee Arnoldussen, a research neuroscientist at Wicab, Inc. and member of the Eye Research Institute, invites you to test a prototype visual prosthetic, the BrainPort vision device. After a few hours of training you are able to recognize high-contrast objects, their location, movement, and some aspects of perspective and depth. A new door opens in your experiential world, and for the first time, you are excited that you can “see.”

Sight and Insight - Spring 2008
The emerging transdisciplinary field of Visual Culture connects the study and practice of all that is visual across the sciences, humanities, social sciences and arts. Its objects of study and materials of practice include not merely images, visual objects, imaging technologies and devices of visual representation but also the ways of seeing, valuing and interpreting the visual. The field’s methodologies are, therefore, diverse and hybrid, including the empirical, practical, creative and theoretical.

Is the Hand Quicker Than the Eye? - Winter 2008
Anyone who has played a video game has had the experience of using hand-eye coordination to guide actions happening in a virtual environment displayed on the computer screen. What can virtual environments such as these teach us about how sensory information – like sight and touch – influence our actions, reactions, and movements?

Coming Full Circle - Fall 2007
During his sophomore year in high school, Daniel Albert’s father was diagnosed with bladder cancer and was treated at New York’s Memorial Hospital (now part of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center). Albert, who found the cancer wards to be places filled with people in great pain, resolved that he would someday contribute to alleviating the sort of suffering he witnessed.

When Old Friends Get Together - Summer 2007
When old friends get together, it is usually a time for renewing acquaintances, exchanging stories, meeting new members of the family, and reminiscing about good times. The activities and events throughout the June 8-10, 2007 visit of friends and board members of the Retina Research Foundation (RRF) in Houston, TX to the UW Eye Research Institute (ERI) fostered this same spirit. Hosted by Alice R. McPherson, MD, President and founder of the RRF and a UW alumna, the weekend provided many opportunities for education, discussion, and enjoyment.

Leading with Vision - Spring 2007
Today’s scientific discoveries are increasingly made through partnerships between an assortment of scientists and scholars. Enhancing the interplay between different disciplines broadens the base of scientific knowledge and fosters new and innovative ways of thinking.

Nurturing Researchers and Retinas - Winter 2007
If your father kept a collection of animal brains in jars in the barn when you were a kid, you’d probably grow up with either an interest in or an aversion to such things. For David Gamm, assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and member of the UW Eye Research Institute, his school psychologist father’s passion for both the inner workings of the mind and its physical structure instilled David with a curiosity about the nervous system. Gamm’s mother, a nurse, also encouraged an interest in medicine. “I think I managed to blend both parental influences,” laughs Gamm, who studied cellular and molecular biology as an undergraduate and then pursued a combined MD degree and PhD degree (in Neuroscience) at the University of Michigan.

Curiosity as a Career - Fall 2006
Children often want to be doctors or firemen when they grow up. But as a young student in Japan, Akihiro Ikeda spent his free time reading biographies of famous physicists and other scientists. “I pictured the researchers sitting in a room alone, reading and learning wonderful things. There was something very intriguing to me about their curiosity and dedication.”

Raising Scientists - Summer 2006
Just as a fledgling develops feathers and learns to fly, students can try their wings at becoming independent researchers through educational experiences afforded through laboratories. “The laboratory is about providing opportunities,” says Arthur S. Polans, PhD, professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Associate Director of the UW Eye Research Institute. “My goal as an educator is to build scientific independence,” continues Polans. “I structure my lab as a place for students at every educational level.”

Come Fly With Me - Spring 2006
Imagine walking into a hangar filled with 6 million airplane parts. Properly assembled, the pieces will form a Boeing 747. Much in the same way, the human genetic “hangar” contains 3 billion pairs of DNA building blocks strung together in specific combinations to make our genes. Our human genetic makeup can be compared to the 747’s list of parts. Just as putting all the parts out on the runway and cataloging them will not tell you how the plane flies, simply identifying the parts of the human genome does not tell scientists everything they need to know about how humans function and the underlying causes of blinding diseases.