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Reconnecting Eye to Brain

2015 NEI Audacious Goals Initiative panel discussion inspires Journal of Neuroscience state-of-the science report
October 19, 2016
Two women panelists look at male colleague as he speaks

Chinfei Chen, Boston Children's Hospital (center), and Hollis Cline (right), Scripps Research Institute, react to comments by David Feldheim, University of California Santa Cruz, during the 2015 National Eye Institute Audacious Goals panel discussion, "Reconnecting Neurons in the Visual System."

Michael Crair, Yale University, and Carol Mason, Columbia University, have co-authored a report published online today in the Journal of Neuroscience. “Reconnecting Eye to Brain” is a comprehensive assessment of what scientists know about optic nerve development, regeneration, and reconnection. The report was based on input gathered during the Oct. 16, 2015, panel discussion, titled “Reconnecting Neurons in the Visual System,” sponsored by the National Eye Institute Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI). The panel comprised two dozen leading experts on neural development and regeneration. 

The AGI is developing therapies to restore vision, lost through disease or injury, by regenerating the retina. A major AGI challenge is reconnecting retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons that project from the retina to the brain. Zebrafish do this naturally after injury. What might we learn from Zebrafish to inform us about the regeneration mechanisms in humans?

The report addresses guiding RGC axons to targets in the brain, promoting target engagement and synaptogenesis, replicating successful approaches in other organ systems, and fostering new approaches and opportunities. It highlights advances of the past two decades in understanding guidance factors, and lingering challenges—for example, RGC subtypes vary in their ability to regenerate. “The collective wisdom of the conference participants pointed to important gaps in our knowledge and barriers to progress in promoting the restoration of visual system function,” wrote the authors in the report. 

The NEI AGI is an effort to push the boundaries of vision science. By facilitating cross-disciplinary research, the AGI is tackling the most devastating and difficult-to-treat eye diseases. Learn more about the NEI AGI at


NEI leads the federal government's research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs to develop sight-saving treatments and address special needs of people with vision loss. For more information, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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Dustin Hays

Crair, Michael C. and Carol A. Mason. “Reconnecting Eye to Brain,” Published online in J. Neuroscience, Oct. 19, 2016. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1711-16.2016.