Sheila Nirenberg, Ph.D.

Professor of Physiology and Biophysics

  • Nanette Laitman Professor in Neurology and Neuroscience
  • Professor of Computational Neuroscience in Computational Biomedicine in the Institute for Computational Biomedicine


1300 York Avenue, Room C-504 B
New York, NY 10065


Research Areas

Research Summary:

The theme of our research is to advance basic understanding of computational neuroscience, and, in parallel, use what we learn to address practical problems that improve quality of life.

Our work is organized around three major goals:

  • To understand the codes neurons use and the transformations they perform
  • To use this understanding to build neuroprosthetics, brain machine interfaces, and robots
  • To circle back and use our knowledge of the codes and transformations to advance other questions in systems neuroscience (e.g., population coding, how neurons collectively represent visual scenes, extract information, etc.)

So far, we’ve been focusing on these goals in the context of vision, but the ideas and tools generalize to other systems as well.

Recent Publications:

  1. Yan, B, Viswanathan, S, Brodie, SE, Deng, WT, Coleman, KE, Hauswirth, WW et al.. A clinically viable approach to restoring visual function using optogenetic gene therapy. Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev. 2023;29 :406-417. doi: 10.1016/j.omtm.2023.05.005. PubMed PMID:37251979 PubMed Central PMC10213293.
  2. Yan, B, Nirenberg, S. An Engineering Platform for Clinical Application of Optogenetic Therapy in Retinal Degenerative Diseases. IEEE J Transl Eng Health Med. 2023;11 :296-305. doi: 10.1109/JTEHM.2023.3275103. PubMed PMID:37250684 PubMed Central PMC10217532.
  3. Cideciyan, AV, Roman, AJ, Jacobson, SG, Yan, B, Pascolini, M, Charng, J et al.. Developing an Outcome Measure With High Luminance for Optogenetics Treatment of Severe Retinal Degenerations and for Gene Therapy of Cone Diseases. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2016;57 (7):3211-21. doi: 10.1167/iovs.16-19586. PubMed PMID:27309625 PubMed Central PMC4928698.
  4. Yan, B, Vakulenko, M, Min, SH, Hauswirth, WW, Nirenberg, S. Maintaining ocular safety with light exposure, focusing on devices for optogenetic stimulation. Vision Res. 2016;121 :57-71. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2016.01.006. PubMed PMID:26882975 PubMed Central PMC4813666.
  5. Nichols, Z, Nirenberg, S, Victor, J. Interacting linear and nonlinear characteristics produce population coding asymmetries between ON and OFF cells in the retina. J Neurosci. 2013;33 (37):14958-73. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1004-13.2013. PubMed PMID:24027295 PubMed Central PMC3771031.
  6. Bomash, I, Roudi, Y, Nirenberg, S. A virtual retina for studying population coding. PLoS One. 2013;8 (1):e53363. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053363. PubMed PMID:23341940 PubMed Central PMC3544815.
  7. Nirenberg, S, Pandarinath, C. Retinal prosthetic strategy with the capacity to restore normal vision. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109 (37):15012-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1207035109. PubMed PMID:22891310 PubMed Central PMC3443127.
  8. Meytlis, M, Nichols, Z, Nirenberg, S. Determining the role of correlated firing in large populations of neurons using white noise and natural scene stimuli. Vision Res. 2012;70 :44-53. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2012.07.007. PubMed PMID:22885035 PubMed Central PMC3980944.
  9. Pandarinath, C, Victor, JD, Nirenberg, S. Symmetry breakdown in the ON and OFF pathways of the retina at night: functional implications. J Neurosci. 2010;30 (30):10006-14. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5616-09.2010. PubMed PMID:20668185 PubMed Central PMC2940838.
  10. Pandarinath, C, Bomash, I, Victor, JD, Prusky, GT, Tschetter, WW, Nirenberg, S et al.. A novel mechanism for switching a neural system from one state to another. Front Comput Neurosci. 2010;4 :2. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2010.00002. PubMed PMID:20407612 PubMed Central PMC2856633.
  11. Nirenberg, S, Bomash, I, Pillow, JW, Victor, JD. Heterogeneous response dynamics in retinal ganglion cells: the interplay of predictive coding and adaptation. J Neurophysiol. 2010;103 (6):3184-94. doi: 10.1152/jn.00878.2009. PubMed PMID:20357061 PubMed Central PMC2888242.
  12. Jacobs, AL, Fridman, G, Douglas, RM, Alam, NM, Latham, PE, Prusky, GT et al.. Ruling out and ruling in neural codes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009;106 (14):5936-41. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0900573106. PubMed PMID:19297621 PubMed Central PMC2657589.
  13. Victor, JD, Nirenberg, S. Indices for testing neural codes. Neural Comput. 2008;20 (12):2895-936. doi: 10.1162/neco.2008.10-07-633. PubMed PMID:18533812 PubMed Central PMC2671011.
  14. Nirenberg, SH, Victor, JD. Analyzing the activity of large populations of neurons: how tractable is the problem?. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2007;17 (4):397-400. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2007.07.002. PubMed PMID:17709240 PubMed Central PMC2911481.
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