Martha Bickford, Ph.D.


Department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology


Dr. Bickford’s general research interest is the organization of the dorsal thalamus. Since virtually all neocortical sensory signals originate from cells in the dorsal thalamus, it is viewed as the major site for regulating attention to specific sensory stimuli, a function accomplished through the selective damping or amplification of thalamocortical signals. Her current research focuses on the organization of visual thalamic nuclei (lateral geniculate nucleus, pulvinar nucleus and lateral posterior nucleus). The pulvinar and lateral posterior nuclei are of particular interest in the study of attention mechanisms because they appear to be involved both in the mechanisms that enhance salient visual signals, and in those that direct movements to attend to such stimuli. Dr. Bickford is using complementary anatomical and physiological approaches to examine the synaptic organization, development, and plasticity of visual thalamus connections. The goal of these studies is to elucidate the normal mechanisms underlying attention, as a first step toward understanding the causes of attention disorders. Techniques used in her lab include anatomical tract tracing, electron microscopy, immunocytochemisty and intracellular recording from neurons in an in vitro slice preparation.

Dr. Bickford enjoys active collaborations with Dr. Woody Petry (Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences University of Louisville), as well as with investigators at the University of Montreal, Virginia Commonwealth University, Emory University, and the University of Mississippi.

Recent Publications

Chomsung R, Petry HM, Bickford ME (2008) Ultrastructural examination of diffuse and specific tectopulvinar projections in the tree shrew.  J. Comparative Neurology, 510:24-46.

Bickford ME, Wei H, Eisenback MA, Chomsung RD, Slusarczyk AS, Dankowski AB (2008) Synaptic organization of thalamocortical axon collateral in the PGN and dLGN. J. Comparative Neurology, 508 (2):264-285.

Huppé-Gourgues F, Bickford ME, Boire D, Ptito M. Casanova C (2006) Distribution, morphology, and synaptic targets of corticothalamic terminals in the cat lateral posterior-pulvinar complex that originate from the posteromedial lateral suprasylvian cortex. J. Comparative Neurology, 497:847-863.

Boka K, Chomsung R, Li J, Bickford ME (2006) Synaptic targets of cortical and retinal terminals in the rat superior colliculus. Anatomical Record, 288A: 850-858.

Basso, MA, Uhlrich, DJ, Bickford, ME (2005) Cortical Function: A View from the Thalamus. Neuron, 45:485-488.

Baldauf ZB, Chomsung RD, Carden WB, May PJ, Bickford ME (2005) Ultrastructural analysis of projections to the cat pulvinar nucleus I: Middle suprasylvian gyrus (areas 5 and 7). J. of Comparative Neurology, 485:87-107.

Baldauf ZB, Wang S, Chomsung RD, May PJ, Bickford ME (2005) Ultrastructural analysis of projections to the cat pulvinar nucleus II: Pretectum. J. Comparative Neurology, 485:108-126.