Sara Stokes Patterson

Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Rochester

I am a neuroscientist interested in linking information processing in retinal circuits to downstream visual functions. My goal is to understand the many rarer, uncharacterized retinal neurons. That most of the ~20 ganglion cell types and >40 amacrine cell types have no known function indicates we may only understand a small fraction of the visual processing occurring in our retina, a thin sheet of neural tissue at the back of the eye that provides the sole source of visual information to the brain. Addressing this gap in knowledge is increasingly urgent. Our basic science understanding of what the retina tells the brain is a key limitation to further development of devices that aim to restore vision in the blind by replacing the retinal output, such as retinal prosthetics.

I received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Neitz lab at the University of Washington in Seattle where I studied primate retinal circuits encoding color and motion. My research combined 3D reconstructions of retinal neurons from electron microscopy with electrophysiology, computational models and psychophysics. A common theme was the idea that the primate retina does not merely transmit visual information to the brain like a camera, but instead pre-processes that information to extract features relevant to downstream visual functions (e.g., the color of the sky for circadian photoentrainment, global motion direction for gaze-stabilizing reflexes). My work added to increasing evidence that the computations defining our visual perception and behavior begin in the retina rather than the cortex.

Currently, I'm a postdoctoral fellow studying foveal ganglion cell structure and function in the living eye with adaptive optics, calcium imaging and circuit tracing in the lab of Dr. David Williams at the University of Rochester. The goal of my postdoctoral research is to classify the full diversity of primate ganglion cells in the fovea, a critical but understudied region of the retina responsible for most conscious vision. By using non-invasive in vivo imaging techniques, I can study the same cells for years and, in the future, directly link their responses to visual perception and behavior.

Before graduate school, I spent a year as a post-bac at the NIH studying zebrafish cone photoreceptor development in the lab of Dr. Ralph Nelson. I graduated from Dickinson College with a B.S. in Neuroscience.

My full CV can be found here.


Godat, T., Cottaris, N., Patterson, S.S., Kohout, K., Parkins, K., Yang, Q., Strazzeri, J.M., McGregor, J.E., Brainard, D.H., Merigan, W.H., Williams, D.R. (2022) In vivo chromatic and spatial tuning of foveolar retinal ganglion cells in Macaca fascicularis. PLoS ONE, 17(11): e0278261

Nelson, R.F., Balraj, A., Suresh, T., Elias, L.J., Yoshimatsu, T., Patterson, S.S. (2022) Over-expression of thyroid hormone receptor B2 in zebrafish changes the distribution of cone signals. eNeuro, 9(6), ENEURO.0326-22.2022

Bordt, A.S., Patterson, S.S., Kuchenbecker, J.A., Mazzaferri, M.A., Yearick, J.N., Ogilvie, J.M., Neitz, J., Marshak, D.W. (2022) Synaptic inputs to displaced intrinsically-photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in macaque retina. Scientific Reports, 12, 15160

Patterson, S.S., Bembry, B.N., Mazzaferri, M.A., Neitz, M., Rieke, F., Soetejdo, R., Neitz, J. (2022) Conserved circuits for direction selectivity in the primate retina. Current Biology, 32(11), 2529-2538

Patterson, S.S., Neitz, M., Neitz, J. (2021) S-cone circuits in the primate retina for non-image-forming vision. Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology, 126, 66-70

Bordt, A.S., Patterson, S.S., Girresch, R.J., Perez, D., Tseng, L., Anderson, J.R., Mazzaferri, M.A., Kuchenbecker, J.A., Gonzales-Rojas, R., Roland, A., Tang, C., Puller, C., Chuang, A.Z., Ogilvie, J.M., Neitz, J., Marshak, D.W. (2021) Synaptic inputs to broad thorny ganglion cells in macaque retina. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 529(11), 3098-3111

Patterson, S.S., Mazzaferri, M.A., Bordt, A.S., Chang, J., Neitz, M., Neitz, J. (2020) Another Blue-ON ganglion cell in the primate retina. Current Biology, 30(23), 1409-1410

Patterson, S.S., Kuchenbecker, J.A., Anderson, J.R., Neitz, M., Neitz, J. (2020) A color vision circuit for non-image-forming vision in the primate retina. Current Biology, 30(7), 1269-1274

Neitz, A., Jiang, X., Kuchenbecker, J.A., Domdei, N., Harmening, W., Yan, H., Yeonan-Kim, J., Patterson, S.S., Neitz, M., Neitz, J., Coates, D.R., Sabesan, R. (2020) The effect of cone spectral topography on chromatic detection sensitivity. Journal of the Optical Society of America A, 37(4), A245-255

Patterson, S.S.*, Bordt, A.S.*, Girresch, R.J., Linehan, C.M., Bauss, J., Yeo, E., Perez, D., Tseng, L., Navuluri, S., Harris, N.B., Matthews, C., Anderson, J.R., Kuchenbecker, J.A., Manookin, M.B., Ogilvie, J.M., Neitz, J., Marshak, D.W. (2019) Wide-field amacrine cell inputs to ON parasol ganglion cells in the primate retina. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 528(9), 1588-1598. (* co-first author)

Patterson, S.S., Kuchenbecker, J.A., Anderson, J.R., Bordt, A.S., Marshak, D.W., Neitz, M., Neitz, J. (2019) An S-cone circuit for edge detection in the primate retina. Scientific Reports, 9, 11913

Patterson, S.S., Neitz, M., Neitz, J. (2019) Reconciling color vision models with midget ganglion cell receptive fields. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13, 865

Neitz, M., Patterson, S.S., Neitz, J. (2019) Photopigment genes, cones and color update: Disrupting the splicing code causes a diverse array of vision disorders. Current Opinion in Behavioral Science, 30, 60-66

Nelson, R.F., Balraj, A., Suresh, T., Torvund, M., Patterson, S.S. (2019) Strain variations in opsin peaks in situ during zebrafish development. Visual Neuroscience, 36, E010

Bordt, A.S., Perez, D., Tseng, L., Liu, W.S., Neitz, J., Patterson, S.S., Famiglietti, E.V., Marshak, D.W. (2019) Synaptic inputs and connectivity of a sparsely branched ganglion cell in rabbit retina. Visual Neuroscience, 36, E004

Manookin, M.B., Patterson, S.S., Linehan, C.L. (2018) Neural mechanisms mediating motion sensitivity in parasol ganglion cells of the primate retina. Neuron, 97(6), 1327-1340

Book Chapters

Neitz, M., Patterson, S. S., Neitz, J. (2020) The genetics of cone opsin based vision disorders. The Senses: A Comprehensive Reference, 2nd edition, Vol. 1, 493-507


Neitz, J., Neitz, M., Kuchenbecker, J.A., Patterson, S.S., Neitz, A. (2022) Lighting devices, systems, methods for stimulating circadian rhythms. 17/612,061


Patterson, S.S., Neitz, M., Neitz, J. (2019) The spectral sensitivity of the neurons mediating black and white. bioRxiv


Adaptive Optics Object model and framework for organizing experimental data, metadata and code (AOData)

Connectomics: 3D analysis and visualization toolbox for serial electron microscopy. (SBFSEM-tools)

Electrophysiology: Stimulus protocols and online analyses for Symphony and Stage (patterson-package).

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): Semi-automated segmentation of retinal layers and choroid (OCT-tools).

HDF5: Toolbox of high-level functions for working with HDF5 files in MATLAB. (h5tools-matlab)

Open Source Data


Profiles: Github, Google Scholar, Research Gate, Orcid, Codepen, Twitter.
University of Rochester: Center for Visual Science, Institute of Optics, Flaum Eye Institute, Advanced Retinal Imaging Alliance (ARIA).
University of Washington: Neitz lab, Neuroscience Graduate Program