Michael Stryker, PhD

Professor, UCSF School of Medicine

Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
B.A. in Philosophy with a Minor in Mathematics, University of Michigan

Michael Stryker's laboratory studies the development and plasticity of the central visual system. Most of his laboratory's effort focuses on the role of neural activity in the primary visual cortex of the mouse, where they have identified a circuit that dramatically enhances activity-dependent plasticity in adult animals. They use 2-photon microscopy and electrophysiology to study genetically identified types of neurons in alert animals.


His laboratory's major interest is the in the mechanisms responsible for the development and plasticity of precise connections within the central nervous system, and particularly in the role of neural activity in this process. Most of the work performed is on the visual cortex of the mouse. In normal development, neural connections to and within the visual cortex are refined to high precision through the action of activity-dependent mechanisms of neural plasticity in combination with specific molecular signals. In experiments, the lab induces activity-dependent plasticity experimentally through manipulations of genetics or experience or by pharmacological or neurophysiological intervention in order to discover what cellular mechanisms and what changes in cortical circuitry are responsible for rapid, long lasting changes in neuronal responses. These changes are analyzed using microelectrode recordings, novel techniques for measurement of optical and metabolic signals related to neural activity, including 2-photon microscopy and intrinsic signal imaging, and anatomical and neurochemical tracing of connections.


Current experimental work in the laboratory focuses on four areas: (a) Understanding the coupling between the physiological and anatomical changes responsible for neuronal plasticity. (b) Understanding the cellular mechanisms of activity-dependent cortical plasticity, primarily through the use of transgenic mice. (c) Understanding the interaction between neural activity and  molecular cues in the formation of cortical maps. (d) Understanding the difference between the limited plasticity in the adult brain and the much greater plasticity during critical periods in early life.

Michael Stryker earned his undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Mathematics from Deep Springs College and the University of Michigan before pursuing a PhD from Massachussetts Institute of Technology. He completed subsequent postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School before joining the Physiology Department and Neuroscience program at UCSF.


Dr. Stryker holds the W.F. Ganong Endowed Chair of Physiology and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the US National Academy of Sciences.

Dan Qin, SRA/Lab Manager
Megumi Kaneko, Postdoctoral Fellow
Yujiao (Jennifer) Sun, Postdoctoral Fellow
Maria Makin, Postdoctoral Fellow