W. Martin Usrey

Position Title
Department Chair; Professor; Barbara A. Horwitz and John M. Horowitz Endowed Chair in Physiology

Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences
Center for Neuroscience
Department of Neurology, School of Medicine

1544 Newton Court, Davis, CA 95618

Research Interests

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

The long-term goal of the Usrey laboratory is to understand the functional properties of neural circuits that serve vision and the relationship between cell physiology, 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, and (4) the relationship between neural activity and visual perception. Using an arsenal of techniques, 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.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Neuroscience
  • Psychology

Specialties / Focus

  • Systems Neuroscience


  • NPB 101 Human Physiology, Winter
  • NPB 110C Physiology: Foundations, Spring
  • NSC 201 Neuroanatomy, Fall
  • NSC 222 Systems Neuroscience, Winter
  • NSC 261B Visual Neuroscience, Winter


  • Usrey Lab
    • Scottie Alexander, Henry Alitto, Evan Antzoulatos, Jeff Johnson, Karl Murray, Katie Neverkovec, Alyssa Sanchez, Stacey Seidl, Dan Sperka

Honors and Awards

  • 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
  • Distinguished Service Award – Neuroscience Graduate Program, UC Davis
  • Outstanding Graduate Mentor in Neuroscience Award – Neuroscience Graduate Program, UC Davis


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


    Select list (from 72 total)

    Alitto HJ, Rathbun DL, Vandeleest JJ, Alexander PC, and Usrey WM. (2019) The augmentation of retinogeniculate communication during thalamic burst mode. Journal of Neuroscience. 39:5697-5710.

    Usrey WM, and Sherman SM. (2019) Corticofugal circuits: Communication lines from the cortex to the rest of the brain. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 527:640-650.

    Alitto HJ, Rathbun DL, Fisher TG, Alexander PC, and Usrey WM. (2019) Contrast gain control and retinogeniculate communication. European Journal of Neuroscience. 49:1061-1068.

    Kiley CW, and Usrey WM. (2017) Orientation tuning of correlated activity in the developing lateral geniculate nucleus. Journal of Neuroscience. 37:11549-11558.

    Fisher TG, Alitto HA, and Usrey WM. (2017) Retinal and non-retinal contributions to extraclassical surround suppression in the lateral geniculate nucleus. Journal of Neuroscience. 37:226-235.

    Briggs F, Kiley CW, Callaway EM, and Usrey WM. (2016) Morphological substrates for parallel streams of corticogeniculate feedback originating in both V1 and V2. Neuron 90:388-399.

    Usrey WM, and Alitto HJ. (2015) Visual functions of the thalamus. Annual Review of Vision Science. 1:351-371.

    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.

    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.