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Peter Sterling, Ph.D

Peter Sterling, Ph.D

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Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience
Department: Neuroscience

Contact information
123 Anatomy/Chemistry Building
Department of Neuroscience
University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6058
Office: 215-898-9228
Fax: (215) 898-6228

Cornell University, 1961.
New York University School of Medicine, 1962.
Ph.D. (Biology)
Western Reserve University , 1966.
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Description of Research Expertise

Our broad goal in studying the retina is to connect psychophysics to biophysics. We wish to relate quantitative measures of visual performance (behavior) to their underlying causal mechanisms (neural circuits, channels, and molecules). For example, we measure how efficiently the retina transfers a low contrast image from photoreceptors through its neural circuits to the brain. To do this, we present visual stimuli to the retina in vitro and measure the rate and timing of ganglion cell spiking to determine which code is most efficient. Further, we measure the rate and timing of synaptic vesicle release to learn how these quantized signals efficiently generate the ganglion cell's code. Finally, we study certain biochemical signaling cascades to learn how circuits amplify their signals and how synaptic sensitivity is modulated (minutes to hours) to match gradual shifts in the environment.

We focus on mammalian retina, taking advantage of the special features in particular species; for example in mouse, molecular genetics; in primate, color circuits. The projects involve close collaboration within our group between specialists in circuitry (electron and confocal microscopy), electrophysiology (intracellular and whole-cell recording from intact retina and slice), molecular biology / immunocytochemistry, and computational modeling.

Selected Publications

Heidelberger, R., Sterling, P., Matthews, G.: Roles of ATP in depletion and replenishment of the releasable pool of synaptic vesicles. J. Neurophysiol. 2002 Notes: Currently in press.

Dhingra, A., Jiang, M., Wang, T.L.,Lyubarsky, A., Savchenko,A., Bar-Yehuda, T., Sterling, P., Birnbaumer,L., Vardi, N.: Light response of retinal ON bipolar cells requires a specific splicevariant of Gao. J. Neurosci. 2002 Notes: Currently in press.

Dhingra, N.K., Kao, Y.-H., Sterling, P., Smith, R.G.: How well does a ganglion cell see? 2002 Notes: Submitted for publication.

Freed, M.A., Smith, R.G., Sterling, P.: Timing of quantal release from the retinal bipolar terminal is regulated by a feedback circuit. 2002 Notes: Submitted for publication.

DeVries, S., Qi, X., Smith, R.G., Hahn, L., Buchsbaum, G., Makous, W., Sterling, P.: Electrical coupling enhances contrast sensitivity of foveal cones. 2002 Notes: Submitted for publication.

Burris, C., Klug, K., Sterling, P., Schein, S.: How Müller glial cells in primate fovea coat cone synaptic terminals. 2002 Notes: Submitted for publication.

Demb, J.B., Zaghloul, K., Haarsma, L., Sterling, P.: Synaptic mechanism for nonlinear spatial summation in theY-type ganglion cell. J. Neurosci. 21(19): 7447-7454, 2001.

Demb, J.B., Zaghloul, K., Sterling, P.: Second-order motion is computed in retina. Neuron 32: 711-721, 2001.

Tsukamoto, Y., Morigiwa, K., Ueda, M., Sterling, P.: Microcircuits for night vision in mouse retina. J. Neurosci. 21(21): 8616-8623, 2001.

Hsu, A., Smith, R.G., Buchsbaum, G., Sterling, P.: Cost of cone coupling to trichromacy in primate fovea. J. Opt. Soc. Amer. A 17(3): 635-640, 2000.

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Last updated: 09/08/2004
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