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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Vittorio Porciatti, D.Sc.

General Information

Vittorio Porciatti, D.Sc.

Research Subject

Prevention of Visual Dysfunction

Vision Science Focus

Visual Neurophysiology, Optic Neuropathies

Published Articles



Research Professor of Ophthalmology and Director and Vice Chairman of Research Faculty, Neuroscience Program and Biomedical Engineering Program


Death of retinal ganglion cells is the cause of blindness in glaucoma and in diseases of the optic nerve. The central idea of Dr. Porciatti’s research is that retinal ganglion cells undergo a stage of progressive dysfunction before dying. If neuronal dysfunction is detected early, then visual loss can be prevented and neural function restored. Dr. Porciatti’s laboratory uses non-invasive electrophysiologic and imaging techniques in human and mouse models to investigate how retinal ganglion cells become dysfunctional, how they become susceptible to stress, and how their function may be improved.

Current Research

Reversible/preventable dysfunction in glaucoma.

The electrical activity of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) can be recorded non-invasively by means of the pattern electroretinogram (PERG). We have optimized PERG methods for both human subjects and experimental mouse models. The PERG is used as a tool to detect the earliest dysfunction of RGCs in glaucoma and monitor its progression. The PERG is also used to understand whether RGC function is susceptible to artificial elevation of intraocular pressure (IOP) and/or retinal metabolism, and whether RGC dysfunction can be reversed with pharmacological treatment to delay the onset or prevent progression of the disease. For both, human patients and mouse models of glaucoma, electrophysiological analysis of RGC function is combined with imaging analysis of the retina (Optical Coherence Tomography, OCT) and IOP measurements to model structure-function relationships and dependence on stress factors. The susceptibility/reversibility of RGC function is also studied in mice with specific genotypes to understand the genetic predisposition to neuronal dysfunction and death.

Optical Coherence Tomography Diagram

The figure represents a model of energy processing by RGCs when they are activated by a strong visual stimulus (Porciatti and Ventura, Vision Research 2009, 49:505-513).