Kenzi Valentyn Vision Research Grants 2020 Announced

The McPherson Eye Research Institute’s Research and Leadership Committees are pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of the Kenzi Valentyn Vision Research Grants.  Anjani Sreepada Chakrala, Ralph W. Nelson, and Abhilash Sawant will each receive a one-year grant award of $4000 funded by the Institute’s Cycle for Sight event, which raises money to support vision research in McPherson ERI member labs and programs.

Anjani Sreepada Chakrala is a graduate student in Neuroscience and is mentored by Xin Huang.  She will be advancing understanding of “Neural Representation of Overlapping Motion Surfaces Located at Different Depths in Visual Area MT: Effects of Selective Attention on this Representation.  The expected results of this project are likely to provide new insights into the neural basis for a fundamental function of vision and the close interaction between eye movements and visual perception.

Ralph W. Nelson is a graduate student in Kinesiology – Motor Control & Behavior and is mentored by Andrea Mason.  His research is titled “The Assessment of Dual-Task Interference Using Walking and Carrying Tasks in Children With and Without Autism Spectrum.”  This study has implications for activities of daily living for children with ASD, and how visual attention during dual-task gait can be effectively assessed in this population.

Abhilash Sawant is a graduate student in Neuroscience and is mentored by Raunak Sinha.  He is pursuing “Understanding the Mechanism and Function of Postsynaptic Inhibition in the Mouse ON-Alpha Retinal Ganglion Cell.”  A deeper knowledge about the inhibitory mechanisms and circuit components modulating ON-alpha signaling is crucial to understanding the retinal substrates underlying dim light vision.

Kenzi Valentyn Vision Research Awards, the McPherson Eye Research Institute’s research grant opportunity for trainees, were established in 2017.  They are named after Kenzi Valentyn, in honor of her courage and positive attitude throughout her long battle with Kearns–Sayre syndrome, a degenerative disease with symptoms including vision loss, which ended with her passing at age 30 in March 2017.  Her many friends and family members, including her parents Tim and Nancy, brothers Brett and Connor, and sister-in-law Mackenzie, have ridden in Cycle for Sight as “Kenzi’s Team” since 2014.  The McPherson ERI is sincerely grateful for the Valentyn family’s dedication to vision research.