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SwitchBoard is an In Innovative Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme under the Marie Curie Actions. The duration of the project is 48 months, starting on November 01, 2015.

The switchBoard consortium brings together eleven beneficiaries from eight different countries, combining the expertise of seven academic partners with excellent research and teaching records, one non-profit research organisation, and three fully integrated private sector partners. This European Training Network (ETN) is supported by six Partner Organisations as well as a management team experienced in multi-site training activities and counselled by a scientifically accomplished advisory board.

Taken together, the switchBoard training network provides an international, interdisciplinary platform to educate young scientists at the interface of neurobiology, information processing and neurotechnology.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017



This article is written by switchBoard ESRs Prerna Srivastava, Meng-Jung Lee and David Klindt.

The European Retina Meeting (ERM) 2017 was held from 5th to 7th October in Paris. The ERM is a biennial conference series, which was started 10 years ago. It aims at bringing together people working on different fields of vision to exchange their ideas and share their innovations in the field. This platform gave ESRs a huge opportunity to present their first exciting results in front of the best scientists in the field, which not only helped them in getting valuable inputs for their project but also opened doors for collaborations.

The first day of the meeting was opened with a brief retinal anatomy session, chaired by John Dowling, focussing on the “Human and Primate Retina”. It was followed by session on “Retinal diseases and Therapies”, illuminating progress in developing new therapeutic approaches towards retinal diseases. Many different aspects of retinal disease treatment were presented. For instance, transplantation of photoreceptors derived from induced pluripotent or embryonic stem cell was found to be beneficial in treating photoreceptor degenerated diseases. Although it remained unclear if the transplanted photoreceptors integrate into the retina permanently, it showed great potential as a promising therapeutic method. In addition, new optogenetic tools were presented towards the recovery from vision loss by expressing light-sensitive channels in retinal neurons, and the studies are now moving from rodents to primates. Alternatively, organic retinal prostheses offer a complete different aspect to treating retinal diseases. By implanting the electronic device, playing the role of photoreceptors, it stimulates the remaining retinal neurons and could partially restore vision. Resolution is now the main issue to be solved. Finally, axon regeneration, a very important topic to restore vision for glaucoma patients, demonstrates now very promising results for axon elongation and the future direction will be focusing on guiding elongated axons to the right targets.

On the next day, the meeting continued with a session on the “Retinal Impact on Eye Development and Myopia”, followed by session on “Retinal Circuits” where many interesting findings were covered. The discussed topics include how the ribbon synapse are modulated in the absence of horizontal cells and their role in encoding the visual information; functional diversity of the bipolar cells and how the colour vision from regions where S and M cones have different spatial distribution is encoded in the mouse inner retina; dynamics of the circuits for directional selective retinal ganglion cells showed that the directional preference  can be tuned by repetitive stimulation by strengthening the null direction response. There were also talks linking the retinal circuits to what the animals may see in their natural environment, for instance, in zebrafish, photoreceptors sensitive to different wavelengths distribute differently in the eye corresponding to positions in visual space. These fascinating results advanced our understanding in the field.

The last day of the meeting started with a session on “Tools against retinal diseases” that introduced the audience to new techniques in the field. Amazing images from different mouse retinal cell types –specifically labelled by adeno-associated viral vectors – were presented by Botond Roska, who is now developing similar viral vectors for the primate retina. The meeting then closed with a session on “Light Adaptation”, showing findings that overthrew the conventional point of view for visual studies. That is to say, rods can be activated with photopic illuminance and the longer they are stimulated, the more they influence visual perception.

Each day, the lecture sessions were mixed with poster sessions, where 8 of the switchBoard ESRs presented their results, namely:

· DavidKlindt on using large population recordings to discover the computations of individual neurons and group them into functional types. (ESR 1)

· PrernaSrivastava on spontaneous oscillatory networks in the degenerated retina. (ESR 2).
· MaximeZimmermann on Zebrafish colour vision: anisotropic retinal circuits match asymmetric spectral content in the natural light. (ESR 3).
· SubhashChandra Yadav on comparing AII and A8 amacrine cells in the mouse retina. (ESR 4).
· BenjaminJames on how does multivesicular release contribute to the transmission of the visual signal. (ESR 6).
· LuciaZanetti on light induced ganglion cell responses in Cav1.4 mutant mouse retinas. (ESR 9).
· Meng-JungLee on electrically imaging retinal neurons using high-density multi-electrode arrays. (ESR 11). – see picture.
· IremKilicarslan on rewiring of bipolar cells in congenital stationary blindness type 2 mouse models. (ESR 14).

Besides these interesting lecture and poster sessions, on the first day of the meeting everyone was also invited by the Mayor of Paris to a gala buffet hosted in the Hôtel de Ville to promote scientific research in the city. The venue was rather impressive and many retinal researchers gathered to enjoy this delightful evening.

Finally, to motivate young researchers to present their work, prizes were awarded to the best poster and a short talk. Mrs. Joana Neves got the prize for the best oral presentation on the title “MANF as an immune modulatory intervention to improve retinal regenerative therapies in aging” and Mrs. Rebekah Warwick for the best poster presentation on the title “Response properties of retinal ganglion cells and their underlying circuits vary with retina location”. The awardees won the registration fee and flight tickets for the upcoming ARVO 2018 meeting in Hawaii.

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