Seminar topics 2020: Sessions for NEUR0017 students

Sign up for one of the seminars by sending an e-mail to, giving also second and third choices. Seminars will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Topics already assigned will be followed by the initials of the presenter in red.

Presentations should each be about 10 minutes in length. Please time your presentations before you give them. A data projector will be available in the room. If you need any further help with references, please e-mail the seminar organizers.

The seminar dates are listed in the timetable. Scheduling will depend on student numbers and choices.

Titles already assigned will be denoted by the initials in red.

Retina seminar topics

A. How are the center-surround receptive fields of the retina formed and what are their significance? MC

B. What do retinal amacrine cells do?

C. Why are there different classes of ganglion cell in the retina?

D. How are distinct ON and OFF responses generated in the retina? IM

E. What are the functions of the excitatory amino acid transmitters in the retina?

F. What are the functions of the inhibitory amino acid transmitters in the retina?

G. How is the electroretinogram generated and recorded? IG

H. What is the function of Dopamine in the retina? MM

I. What do retinal horizontal cells do?

J. Discuss the function of convergence and divergence within the retinal circuitry. AA

K. How do signals from Rod photoreceptors reach retinal ganglion cells to drive ON and OFF responses?

L. How are parallel pathways generated in the retina?

M. How do ipRGCs contribute to non-image forming vision? PB

General retina (everyone should be aware of the Web textbook):
First steps in seeing. R.W Rodieck

Phototransduction references
Leibrock, C. S. (1998). "Molecular basis of dark adaptation in rod photoreceptors." Eye 12: 511-520.
Pugh, E. N., S. Nikonov, and Lamb, T.D. (1999). "Molecular mechanisms of vertebrate photoreceptor light adaptation." Current Opinion on Neurobiology 9: 410-418.
Lamb, T. D. (1999). Photopigments and the biophysics of transduction in cone photoreceptors. Color vision: From Genes to Perception. K. Gegenfurtner and L. T. Sharpe. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 89-101.
Pugh, E. N. and T. D. Lamb (2000). Phototransduction in vertebrate rods and cones: molecular mechanisms of amplification, recovery and light adaptation. Handbook of biological physics, Vol. 3, Molecular mechanisms of visual transduction. D. G. Stavenga, W. J. de Grip and E. N. Pugh. Amsterdam, Elsevier: 183-255.
Arshavsky, V. Y., T. D. Lamb, and Pugh, E.N. (2000). "G proteins and phototransduction." Annual review of Physiology 64: 153-187.

Pathways and cortical processing seminar topics

Please note that the references are given to help the student get started in preparing the talk--the presentation should aim to adopt a broader outlook.

A. Why should the (primate) LGN not be described as simply a ‘relay’ nucleus ? WI
REF: Usrey &  Alitto (2015)  Visual Functions of the Thalamus.  Annual Review of Vision Science, 1: 351-371.

B. Is the visual pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus really enigmatic? AR
REF: Bridge, Leopold & Bourne (2016) Adaptive Pulvinar Circuitry Supports Visual Cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20: 146-157.

C. What is the distinction between ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ forms of visual attention ?  CS
REF:  Moore &  Zirnsak   2017) Neural Mechanisms of Selective Visual Attention. Annual Review of Psychology, 68: 47-72.

D. What might be the function of backward cortical connections to (primate) area V1?
REF: Pennartz, Dora, Muckli & Lorteije  (2019) Towards a Unified View on Pathways and Functions of Neural Recurrent Processing. Trends in Neurosciences, 42: 589-603.

E. Why do we sometimes see (only) what we expect to see? HA
REF: de Lange, Heilbron & Kok (2018) How Do Expectations Shape Perception? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22: 764-779.

F. What changes in the brain during multistable percepts?
REF: Brascamp, Sterzer, Blake & Knapen (2018)  Multistable Perception and the Role of the Frontoparietal Cortex in Perceptual Inference.  TMS
 Annual Review of Psychology,  69: 77-103.

G. Visual stability--the eyes move yet the world does not. Why not? JO
REF: Wurtz (2018)  Corollary Discharge Contributions to Perceptual Continuity Across Saccades. Annual Review of Vision Science,  4: 215-237.

H. Does the brain get its wires crossed in visual (e.g. grapheme-colour) synaesthesia ? ZZ
REF: Ward  (2013)  Synesthesia. Annual Review of Psychology, 64: 49-75.

Visual function seminar topics

A. Compare and contrast the properties of rod and cone vision. Why do we need two systems? KP

B. How do we see colour, and what are the limitations of our colour vision?

C. Describe the more common types of colour "blindness" and their causes. PA

D. Show examples of visual illusions. For some of them, provide an explanation of what the illusion tells us about the visual system. RP

E. What do the psychophysical changes that occur with light adaptation tell us about how the visual system light adapts?

F. What monocular and binocular cues allow us to see depth? VA 

G. Describe the mechanisms of light adaptation. SRC

H. Show illusions of colour and explain what they tell us about colour vision. KM

I. How do we see depth in a random-dot stereograms? WYC

J. How do we encode the direction and speed of motion? DT

K. Why stimuli detected by the luminance and chromatic pathways look so different?

L. Contrast sensitivity and masking.

Rodieck, R. W. (1998). The First Steps in Seeing. Sinauer
Kaiser, P. K. and R. M. Boynton (1996). Human Color Vision, Second Edition. Washington, DC, Optical Society of America.
Sharpe, L. T et al. (1999). Opsin genes, cone photopigments, color vision and colorblindness. In Color vision: From Genes to Perception. K. Gegenfurtner and L. T. Sharpe. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 3-51.
Hood, D. C. (1998). Lower-level visual processing and models of light adaptation." Annual Review of Psychology 49: 503-535.
Any introductory texts on "Sensation and Perception" will cover topics D and E in some detail. For E, also look for books in the library on "Visual illusions", of which there are several.

Webvision at