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MUSC Neuroscience Faculty

Prakash Kara, Ph.D.

Associate Professor (MUSC Neuroscience, MUSC Ophthalmology, Clemson Bioengineering)

Contact Information
843-792-2137 (Office)
843-792-2561 (Lab)

Research Interests
The Kara lab has broad interests in several areas of neuroscience:

1) How and why neurons communicate with blood vessels ("neurovascular coupling")
2) How neurons use information from both eyes for seeing in depth (stereo-vision)
3) Experience-dependent plasticity during postnatal development
4) Structure and function of dendrites
5) Alcohol addiction (in collaboration with the Woodward lab)

Projects are typically framed from the perspective of sensory stimulus feature selectivity. For example, neurons in the visual cortex will respond selectively to specific stimulus orientations, directions and depths. With inappropriate experiences early in postnatal development, neurons may lose many aspects of feature selectivity. We examine these aspects of brain function at vastly different spatial scales—single molecule neuromodulators, synapses, local microcircuits, and inter-areal connectivity. We also examine the structure and function of non-neural compartments in the brain such as blood vessels and glial cells.

We make extensive use of very high resolution imaging of the living brain such that individual cells can be seen at work. Some projects also require intracellular electrophysiological recording.

The PI co-authored the first paper in the field that used two-photon calcium imaging of neurons to map sensory function in vivo (Ohki et al., 2005 Nature). More recently, the Kara lab has used genetically encoded calcium (gCaMP6) and glutamate (iGluSnFr) sensors in higher mammals (O'Herron et al., 2016 Nature). The lab also discovered the world's first artery-specific dye (Shen et al., 2012 Nature Methods).

Overall, our research is grounded in basic science. Over the long-term, we expect this approach will crossover into disease models in neurology (stroke, vascular dementia), psychiatry (addiction) and ophthalmology (amblyopia—lazy eye).

Our research is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

POSTDOC POSITIONS AVAILABLE - Please email me directly


Selected Publications

O’Herron P, Chhatbar PY, Levy M, Shen Z, Schramm AE, Lu Z, Kara P (2016) Neural correlates of single vessel hemodynamic responses in vivo.  Nature 534,378-382.

Levy M, Lu Z, Dion G, Kara P (2014). The shape of dendritic arbors in different functional domains of the cortical orientation map.  Journal of Neuroscience 34, 3231-3236.

Chhatbar PY and Kara P (2013) Improved blood velocity measurements with a hybrid image filtering and iterative Radon transform algorithm. Frontiers in Neuroscience 7, 106.

Levy M, Schramm AE, Kara P (2012) Strategies for mapping synaptic inputs on dendrites in vivo by combining two-photon microscopy, sharp intracellular recording, and pharmacology. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 6,101.

O’Herron P, Shen Z, Lu, Z, & Kara P (2012) Targeted labeling of neurons in a specific functional micro-domain of the neocortex by combining intrinsic signal and two-photon imaging. Journal of Visualized Experiments 70, e50025.

Shen, Z, Lu Z, Chhatbar PY, O’Herron and Kara P (2012). An artery-specific fluorescent dye for studying neurovascular coupling in vivo. Nature Methods 9, 273-276.

Kara P and Boyd JD (2009). A micro-architecture for binocular disparity and ocular dominance in visual cortex. Nature 442, 925-928.

Ohki K, Chung S, Kara P, Hubener M, Bonhoeffer T, Reid RC (2006). Highly ordered arrangement of single neurons in orientation pinwheels. Nature 442, 925-928.

Ohki K, Chung S, Ch'ng, YH, Kara P, and Reid RC (2005). Micro-architecture of visual cortex: functional maps with single-cell precision. Nature 433, 597-603.

Kara P and Reid RC. (2003). The efficacy of retinal spikes in driving cortical responses. J Neurosci. 23, 8547-8557.

Kanold PO, Kara P, Reid RC, and Shatz, CJ. (2003). The subplate is required for functional organization of visual cortical columns. Science 301, 521-525.

Kara, P, Pezaris JS, Yurgenson S, and Reid, RC. (2002). The spatial receptive field of thalamic inputs to single cortical simple cells revealed by the interaction of visual and electrical stimulation.  Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 99, 16261-16266.

Kara P, Reinagel P, and Reid RC. (2000). Low response variability in simultaneously recorded retinal, thalamic, and cortical neurons. Neuron 27, 635-646.