NEI Starts 50th Anniversary with Symposium
The National Eye Institute, established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. The year-long observance began at the Society for Neuroscience 2017 meeting with a satellite symposium, Vision and the Brain, held Nov. 10 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington D.C. The symposium celebrated the career of Dr. Robert Wurtz, former chief of NEI’s section on visual motor integration. Wurtz joined NIH in 1965 as a physiologist at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness. He retired from NEI this year after more than 50 years of service.
Several of Wurtz’s former students and postdocs attended. Two Nobel laureates—neuroscientist Dr. Torsten Wiesel, president emeritus at the Rockefeller University in New York, and Dr. Eric Kandel, director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University—were symposium speakers and regaled the audience with stories about Wurtz.
Wurtz’s key innovation was to develop methods to study the visual system in animals while they were awake, rather than anesthetized. He trained monkeys to keep their eyes still for a few seconds, allowing him and his team to record visual neurons in action. This model is still used by scientists worldwide to study neurons involved in visual processing.
The symposium was the first of several NEI anniversary events planned for 2018:
• Exhibits at Brain Awareness Week (Mar. 14)
• NEI on Capitol Hill (Mar. 21)
• Symposium: Vision and Immunology (Mar. 22)
• Hands-on activities at USA Science & Engineering Festival (Apr. 6-8)
• NEI at Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (Apr. 29-May 3)
NEI also is releasing a video series to commemorate its 50th anniversary. The first two videos—NEI, Leading the Fight Against Blindness and The Windows to Your Health—are available now. Another two videos will follow later.