W. Martin Usrey

Professor and Chair of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, UC Davis


Center for Neuroscience
Neurology, School of Medicine
Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior

Offices and Labs

1544 Newton Court, Davis, CA 95618


1994 PhD Neurobiology Duke University
1989 MS Physiology San Diego State University
1987 BA Animal Physiology; Anthropology University of California, San Diego

Research Interests

The long-term goal of the Usrey laboratory is to understand the functional properties of neural circuits that serve vision and the relationship between circuit activity, behavior and perception. Current research projects are focused on determining (1) how sensory information is processed and transmitted within and between brain areas, (2) the cellular and circuit mechanisms that mediate the effects of spatial attention on visual processing, (3) the role of feedback pathways for vision, (4) the relationship between neural activity and visual perception, and (5) the molecular, cellular, and circuit mechanisms that establish parallel processing streams in the prenatal retina. Using an arsenal of techniques that includes whole-cell and multielectrode recordings from the isolated retina along with molecular phenotyping of identified cells, single and multielectrode in vivo recordings, optogenetic manipulation of neuronal activity, and fMRI, we are discovering how sensory information is established and encoded in brain activity, as well as the mechanisms employed by the brain for communicating information dynamically from one level to the next.

The Usrey laboratory is also home to Brainmaps.org, an interactive, high-resolution digital brain atlas and virtual microscope for students, educators, and researchers.

Our research is funded by the N.I.H and the NSF.


Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
Klingenstein Fellowship Award in the Neurosciences
Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship Award
Charles Judson Herrick Award, American Association of Anatomists
McKnight Scholar Award
College of Biolocial Sciences Faculty Research Award
Scientific Innovations Award – Brain Research Foundation

Department and Center Affiliations

Center for Neuroscience

CBS Grad Group Affiliations

Neuroscience (Chair)

Specialties / Focus

  • Systems Neuroscience

Graduate Groups not Housed in CBS



Usrey Lab
  • Scottie Alexander, Henry Alitto, Darlene Archer, Evan Antzoulatos, Tucker Fisher, Joe Huff, Jeff Johnson, Benjamin Lankow, Yuelu Lu, Karl Murray, Katie Neverkovec, Stacey Seidl, Dan Sperka, Jim Stone, Deborah van der List

Teaching Interests

Systems Neuroscience, Human Physiology, Neurobiology of Vision, Neuroanatomy.


NSC 222 Systems Neuroscience (Winter)
NPB 101 Human Physiology (Winter)
NSC 201 Neuroanatomy (Fall)
NSC 261B Visual Neuroscience (Winter)


10/23/2014 8:14:50 PM
  • Select list (from 65 total)

  • Bastos AM, Briggs F, Alitto HJ, Mangun GR, and Usrey WM. (2014) Simultaneous recordings from the primary visual cortex and lateral geniculate nucleus reveal rhythmic interactions and a cortical source for gamma-band oscillations. Journal of Neuroscience. 34:7639-7644.

  • Briggs F, Mangun GR, and Usrey WM. (2013) Attention Enhances Synaptic Efficacy and Signal-to-Noise in Neural Circuits. Nature 499:476-480

  • Bastos AM, Usrey WM, Adams RA, Mangun GR, Fires P, and Friston KJ. (2012) Cononical microcircuits for predictive coding. Neuron 76:695-711.

  • Moore BD, Kiley CW, Sun C, and Usrey WM. (2011) Rapid plasticity of visual responses in the adult lateral geniculate nucleus. Neuron 71:812-819.

  • Rathbun DL, Warland DK, and Usrey WM. (2010) Spike timing and information transmission at retinogeniculate synapses. Journal of Neuroscience 30:13558-13566.

  • Briggs F, and Usrey WM. (2009) Parallel processing in the corticogeniculate pathway. Neuron 62:135-146.

  • Alitto HJ, and Usrey WM . (2008) Origin and dynamics of extraclassical suppression in the lateral geniculate nucleus. Neuron 57:135-146.