Dr. Frank Thorn was first trained as a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester Center for Brain Research (PhD) and the UCLA Brain Research Institute (NIH Post-Doctoral Fellowship), where he studied neural responses in the visual systems of several animal models. He continued this work at the Pacific University College of Optometry, where he also taught a wide range of vision science courses. He then came to The New England College of Optometry Accelerated Optometric Degree Program, received his OD in 1979, and stayed at the college. He teaches courses focused on the neural basis of vision, the development of vision, amblyopia, and the testing of patients with visual deficits.
Dr. Thorn then refocused his research to working with human subjects to study the same problems that interested him in the animal models. In 1983, he joined Drs. Richard Held and Jane Gwiazda in the Infant Vision Laboratory in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, where they revealed the processes involved in the development of vision in infants. The laboratory became the Children’s Vision Laboratory of The New England College of Optometry in 1995 and changed its focus to the development of myopia in children. Dr. Thorn’s publications span a wide range of topics and include more than 70 articles and 170 presentations at scientific meetings. In 2000, he chaired the 8th International Conference on Myopia which was hosted by NECO. Conference participants represented 16 nations and strengthened the prestige of the college as a serious research institution.
Dr. Thorn’s current research is performed primarily with ophthalmologists and optometrists at Wenzhou Medical College in China where he has studied the vision of myopic people, the reading behavior of children and the refractive errors in newborn infants. He is very excited about a new project involving researchers at the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Science and the new low vision center at the Wenzhou Medical College. The researchers are using new cognitive and perceptual tests to reveal the visual abilities and disabilities of older children born blind due to cataracts who have later in life had cataract surgery and in a variety of patients with brain lesions. These tests are now being used with stroke victims as well to try to specific brain sits involved in complex visual perception tasks.
Dr. Thorn has taught in Italy, China, Brazil, Spain, France, South Africa, and Israel. He helped design the unique Chinese optometry curriculum for the Wenzhou Medical College and in 1994, traveled to Wenzhou with his colleague Dr. James Comerford to teach the first American optometry courses ever offered at a medical college in China. Dr. Thorn presently holds faculty rank at the Wenzhou Medical College. Dr. Thorn also directs the Accelerated OD Program for PhDs and MDs and is the director of International R & D.