Gordon Smith PhD

Postdoc

Dr. Gordon Smith studies the activity-dependent development of neural circuits in the visual cortex. 

Sensory systems in the brain must rapidly form coherent percepts that can be used to guide behavior. In the visual cortex, the circuits that perform these computations are not hardwired, but rather form over the course of development through activity-dependent plasticity. Understanding this plasticity is critical not only for understanding how functional circuits are constructed, but is also essential for understanding the computations they perform in mature systems in both health and disease. 

To address these questions, Dr. Smith uses cutting-edge optical imaging techniques together with novel longitudinal imaging approaches developed in the Fitzpatrick Lab. Working with collaborators at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Dr. Smith was able to provide the first demonstration that the decorrelation of activity in vivo in neural populations during development promotes stimulus discriminability (Smith et al., Nature Neuroscience, 2015). 

By combining wide-field and 2-photon calcium imaging, Dr. Smith along with Dr. David Whitney was able to demonstrate a robust encoding of stimulus polarity (light vs. dark) in the superficial layers of visual cortex (Smith et al., Neuron, 2015). 

Dr. Smith’s ongoing work uses longitudinal imaging to capture images of early cortical activity over the weeks before eye opening, and applies computational approaches to identify activity patterns that can predict the future functional organization of the cortex. 

Prior to joining the Fitzpatrick Lab in 2010, Dr. Smith earned his Ph.D. in Neurobiology with Dr. Mark Bear at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and visual cortex. Using a virally-expressed peptide inhibitor of AMPA receptor endocytosis, he demonstrated a requirement for homosynaptic LTD in the loss of deprived-eye responses following monocular deprivation. 

Research interests 

  • Development and plasticity of cortical circuits 
  • Sensory coding in large neural populations 
  • Role of early spontaneous activity in shaping future functional organization 
  • Role of inhibition in the developing visual cortex

Education

  • PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Neurobiology (2010)
  • BS, Duke University, Biology (2003)

Recent Publications