Frank Sengpiel

Based at the Neuroscience Group, Cardiff School of Biosciences.

Research interests

We study the mechanisms of normal development of the primary visual cortex (V1) and the physiological and molecular basis of common developmental disorders of vision such as amblyopia (lazy eye). Specifically, we examine the effects of various rearing regimens on the two principal response characteristics of neurons in V1, binocularity and orientation selectivity.

Research over the past 20 years has identified a large number of molecules and pathways that are involved in developmental plasticity as well as in the regulation of the critical period during which the cortex is particularly susceptible to being shaped by sensory experience and indeed requires appropriate experience to develop normally. Glutamate receptors and their downstream signalling pathways play a key role in synaptic plasticity. 

Gene defects affecting some of the associated postsynaptic proteins have been shown to cause neurodevelopmental disorders (also known as synaptopathies) such as Fragile X. We study developmental plasticity in V1 in models of those disorders using functional brain imaging methods, namely optical imaging of intrinsic signals and two-photon laser scanning microscopy.

Available PhD projects

  1. Molecular substrates of cortical plasticity in response to abnormal visual experience early in life
  2. Analysis of the effects of various mutations on visual cortex plasticity in mice
  3. Role of the extracellular environment in the closure of the critical period

Research keywords

Plasticity of the visual cortex, developmental disorders of vision, neurodevelopmental disorders, cortical maps