Gordon Smith, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Gordon Smith

Contact Info


Office Phone 612-625-8823

Lab Address:
1-211A CMRR


Gordon received his B.S. from Duke University and his Ph.D. from MIT, where he worked with Dr. Mark Bear to settle a long-running debate on the mechanisms of ocular dominance plasticity by demonstrating in vivo a requirement for homosynaptic LTD in the loss of visual responses. As a post-doc with Dr. David Fitzpatrick at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, he developed cutting edge in vivo imaging techniques that permit following the plasticity of both single neurons and large populations across development. By applying these tools to address the seemingly contradictory effects of correlated neural activity—which both drives circuit formation but also limits sensory information—he demonstrated for the first time a developmental decrease in correlated activity within a neural population, and showed that this leads to an increase in stimulus discrimination within the population. 


Research Summary/Interests

Development of visual cortical circuits

How are the neural circuits that process sensory information built during the course of development? As the development of a circuit inevitably constrains its future function, addressing this question is critical to understanding both the function of mature circuits and how neurodevelopmental disorders give rise to sensory deficits.

The Smith Lab uses advanced optical imaging techniques in the developing visual cortex to investigate how large populations of neurons form the networks required to process visual information. Ongoing projects include:

  • Distributed functional networks in early development
    • Ongoing work has shown that large-scale distributed functional networks spanning millimeters exist in visual cortex well before they can be visually driven. We're working to determine the circuit mechanisms that give rise to these early networks and guide their refinement during development.
  • Intracortical inhibition and network formation
    • Network function critically depends on the structure and organization of inhibition within the network, but little is known about the organization of inhibition in developing cortical networks. Using novel viral tools, we’re measuring and manipulating inhibitory neurons in the early cortex.
  • How does early SA sculpt future perception?
    • Correlated activity in early development is a critical driver of circuit formation and future perceptual processing. We’re using cutting edge optical approaches to explore the causal role of early patterned network activity in visual processing, and determine whether abnormal spontaneous activity is a common theme linking neurodevelopmental disorders. 


Smith, GB, Hein, B, Whitney, DE, Fitzpatrick, D & Kaschube, M 2018, 'Distributed network interactions and their emergence in developing neocortex' Nature Neuroscience, vol. 21, no. 11, pp. 1600-1608. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-018-0247-5

Wilson, DE, Smith, GB, Jacob, AL, Walker, T, Dimidschstein, J, Fishell, G & Fitzpatrick, D 2017, 'GABAergic Neurons in Ferret Visual Cortex Participate in Functionally Specific Networks' Neuron, vol. 93, no. 5, pp. 1058-1065.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.02.035

Dimidschstein, J, Chen, Q, Tremblay, R, Rogers, SL, Saldi, GA, Guo, L, Xu, Q, Liu, R, Lu, C, Chu, J, Grimley, JS, Krostag, AR, Kaykas, A, Avery, MC, Rashid, MS, Baek, M, Jacob, AL, Smith, GB, Wilson, DE, Kosche, G, Kruglikov, I, Rusielewicz, T, Kotak, VC, Mowery, TM, Anderson, SA, Callaway, EM, Dasen, JS, Fitzpatrick, D, Fossati, V, Long, MA, Noggle, S, Reynolds, JH, Sanes, DH, Rudy, B, Feng, G & Fishell, G 2016, 'A viral strategy for targeting and manipulating interneurons across vertebrate species' Nature Neuroscience, vol. 19, no. 12, pp. 1743-1749. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4430

Smith, GB, Whitney, DE & Fitzpatrick, D 2015, 'Modular Representation of Luminance Polarity in the Superficial Layers of Primary Visual Cortex' Neuron, vol. 88, no. 4, pp. 805-818. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2015.10.019

Smith, GB, Sederberg, A, Elyada, YM, Van Hooser, SD, Kaschube, M & Fitzpatrick, D 2015, 'The development of cortical circuits for motion discrimination' Nature Neuroscience, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 252-261. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3921

Smith, GB & Fitzpatrick, D 2012, 'Specifying cortical circuits: A role for cell lineage' Neuron, vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 4-5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2012.06.032

van Hooser, SD, Li, Y, Christensson, M, Smith, GB, White, LE & Fitzpatrick, D 2012, 'Initial neighborhood biases and the quality of motion stimulation jointly influence the rapid emergence of direction preference in visual cortex' Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 32, no. 21, pp. 7258-7266. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0230-12.2012

Smith, GB & Bear, MF 2010, 'Bidirectional ocular dominance plasticity of inhibitory networks: Recent advances and unresolved questions' Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, vol. 4, no. JUN, 21. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2010.00021

Yoon, BJ, Smith, GB, Heynen, AJ, Neve, RL & Bear, MF 2009, 'Essential role for a long-term depression mechanism in ocular dominance plasticity' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 106, no. 24, pp. 9860-9865. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0901305106

Smith, GB, Heynen, AJ & Bear, MF 2009, 'Bidirectional synaptic mechanisms of ocular dominance plasticity in visual cortex' Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 364, no. 1515, pp. 357-367. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2008.0198