Volunteer for Research

Scientific Background

Our Stanford research group is trying to understand what happens in the brain following retinal disease. When part of the retina is damaged, particularly when central retina is damaged, there is a large region of the brain that is deprived of its input. There is a great deal of uncertainty in the scientific and medical community about whether that part of the brain changes when deprived of its input. Is the brain region taken over by signals from healthy retina? Or does it just lay dormant?

These questions are of particular interest now because of the development of retinal implant technologies. When an implant is inserted, the expectation is that implant signals will drive those parts of brain that have been deprived of retinal signals. But if these regions have been taken over by other parts of the nervous system, say they are now used for heightened sensation of sound or touch, retinal implants may not function as intended.


We are seeking volunteers with retinal disorders.

Contact Information

If you can help us, or you know someone who might be willing to help, please contact Professor Brian Wandell.


Our experiments involve a commitment of about 2-3 hours at Stanford (plus travel time). We can schedule the experiments at many convenient times, either during the day, or an evening, or a weekend. We would be happy to help arrange transportation, as well.

Before participating in the experiment, we review some health information to make sure the volunteer can safely enter the MR scanner. Most people can do so safely, though there are certain exclusionary conditions (pregnancy, pacemaker implants, other metal implants, claustrophobia). Also, we explain the experiment and answer any questions that the volunteer might have.

The MR experiment begins with a measurement of brain structure (anatomical measurement). This takes about 30 minutes. During the structural measurement, the subject does nothing.

After a short break, we measure brain activity (functional measurement). During the measurement of activity, the subject looks at a simple pattern of flickering squares. We understand that for most individuals with macular degeneration, parts of the pattern will not be visible. That is fine. This takes about 45 minutes.

We reimburse costs and pay 30 dollars/hour as a token of our appreciation. Although the experiment will not help the volunteer, we hope that the knowledge will be of value as retinal implant technologies develop.

Thank you again for passing this information on. We believe that these experiments can be important contributions to human understanding, and we would be very grateful for the help of any volunteers you could identify.



We are currently looking for individuals to participate in research related to the development of skilled reading in children and adults. Our group is examining the neurobiological factors that are related to the development of reading skill using neuropsychological testing and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

If you would like to volunteer for the study please contact us:  StanfordReadingStudy @ gmail