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World-leading visual neuroscientist delivers inaugural lecture at City

Professor Christopher Tyler details his research which uses brain imaging and mathematical modelling to enhance our understanding of the mechanisms and functions of the eye.
by Ben

nullPresenting your life's work in just one hour is always a daunting challenge for Professorial appointments delivering their inaugural lecture, not least because many in the audience will have little, or no, knowledge of your field of study.

When your research include brain imaging studies and mathematical modelling of the mechanisms of human cone dynamics and of the 3D structure of the visual cortex, the challenge is perhaps even greater.

Professor Tyler's research focuses on visual neuroscience and computational vision, with contributions to the study of form, symmetry, flicker, motion, colour, and stereoscopic depth perception in adults. His research has led to the development of tests for the diagnosis of eye diseases in infants and for retinal and optic nerve diseases in adults.

In opening Professor Tyler described his appointment to a professorial chair within City University London's Department of Optometry as "the realisation of a dream" and expressed his enthusiasm to begin his work at City.

After completing a Ph.D. at the University of Keele, Professor Tyler moved to the United States where he would spend the next four decades working in various positions at some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, including Bell Labs, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and the UCLA Medical Center. 

In 1981 he joined the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, a non-profit independent research institute dedicated to research on human vision and its rehabilitation. In 2003 he founded the Smith-Kettlewell Brain Imaging Center where he has led pioneering research into the way in which the brain and the eyes work together. This work led to the award of a D.Sc. from his alma mater in 2004.

Throughout his career Professor Tyler has taken a rather unorthodox approach to the study of the eye, applying techniques perhaps more familiar to electrical engineers than optometrists. In his inaugural lecture he used such engineering concepts to describe the speed and capabilities of the eye and the systems behind it.

A focus on electrical impulses in the brain allowed Professor Tyler and his colleagues to develop a more rapid method of measuring visual acuity from electrical signals, which have allowed for greater accuracy when measuring visual development in infants. Issues such as poor eye coordination could be detected at an earlier stage, thus providing clinicians with the opportunity to develop more effective interventions at an earlier stage.

In closing the formal proceedings Professor Stanton Newman, Dean of the School of Health Sciences, described Professor Tyler's speech as a "tour de force" and praised his "amazing array of work which has led to innovative clinical applications."

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