My project’s goal was to understand the variability of cone density in normal control patients. This summer, we focused on creating a normative database of twenty-six control patients. Adaptive Optics (AO), an advanced retinal imaging technique, was used to visualize individual photoreceptors. This non-invasive procedure enables the in-depth exploration of these cells in the living eye. It also allows observers to quantify parameters of the photoreceptor mosaic, such as photoreceptor density at specific locations, and compare diseased and normal retinas.
Creating the database required selecting reference frames for each of the videos that were taken during each patient’s imaging session and processing those images. Since AO images are taken at several retinal locations during imaging, those individual pictures needed to be stitched together using a MATLAB program in conjunction with Photoshop to create a montage of the entire retina. Once those montages were completed, regions of interest had to be selected so as to calculate cone densities.
This experience has taught me many skills that will be beneficial for me in my future, regardless of whether I choose to pursue a career in research or a career in medicine. I now know how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and have experience using MATLAB. The research I did this summer directly applies to my major as I had hands-on experience working with the human visual system. Beyond this, I had the opportunity to sit in on meetings with other labs doing similar research to see what other findings were developing as we made progress.