Christy Willoughby

Ph.D. 2015

Thesis Title:

Neurotrophic factor treatment to extraocular muscle (EOM) changes motor neuron properties

Current Position:

Data Scientist, Streetlight Data, San Francisco, CA

Former Position:

Data Scientist, Tubi TV, San Francisco, CA

Data Science Fellow, Zipfian Academy at Galvanize gSchool, San Francisco, CA

Undergraduate Institution and Major/Degree:

Drake University, B.S., Neuroscience, Psychology, 2004

Major Advisor(s):

Linda McLoon, Ph.D.

Research Description:

Strabismus and Infantile nystagmus are two disorders often caused by central nervous system dysinnervation of the extraocular muscles in the orbit. In young children, there is a critical period where normal binocular eye function must be returned, or amblyopia can occur. The long-term goal is to develop a pharmacologic strategy to treat oculomotor movement disorders of the eyes.  I am investigating if muscle force can increase after treatment with various growth factors and ascertain if there are changes in motor neuron function within the CNS. 

Lab Rotations:

  • Karen Mesce
  • Teresa Nick
  • Michael Georgieff
  • Linda McLoon

Courses Taken Beyond the Core Courses:

  • MICA 8320 - Neurostatistics
  • PHM 8481 - Advanced Neuropharmaceutics
  • PHM 8120 - Readings in CNS Drug Delivery
  • BIOC 8002 - Molecular Biology
  • NSC 5202 - Theoretical Neuroscience

Conferences Attended and Presentations:

Conferences Attended:

  • Society for Neuroscience anual meeting- Fall 2009
  • Gordon Research Conference on Eye Movements - Summer 2011

Committee Members:

  • Paul Letourneau
  • Mike Mustari
  • Teresa Nick
  • Martin Wessendorf

Selected Publications and Presentations:


  • McLoon LK, Willoughby CL, Anderson JS, Bothun ED, Stager D Jr, Felius J, Lee H, Gottlob I. Abnormally small neuromuscular junctions in the extraocular muscles from subjects with idiopathic infantile nystagmus and nystagmus associated with albinism. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57:1912-1920.
  • Willoughby CL, Fleuriet J, Walton MM, Mustari MJ, McLoon LK. Adaptability of the Immature ocular motor control system: Unilateral IGF-1 medial rectus Ttreatment. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2015;56(6):3484-96.
  • Willoughby CL, Fleuriet J, Walton MM, Mustari MJ, McLoon LK. Adaptation of slow myofibers: the effect of sustained BDNF treatment of extraocular muscles in infant nonhuman primates. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2015 Jun;56(6):3467-3483.
  • Walton MM, Mustari MJ, Willoughby CL, McLoon LK. Abnormal activity of neurons in abducens nucleus of strabismic monkeys. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2015;56:10-19. Highlighted article: Cullen K; IOVS 2015;56:20.
  • McLoon LK, Willoughby CL, Andrade FH. Extraocular Muscles: Structure and Function. In: Craniofacial Muscles: A New Framework for Understanding the Effector Side of Craniofacial Muscles. Eds: LK McLoon, F Andrade. Springer, 2012; pp. 31-88.
  • Hebert SL, Willoughby CL, Andrade FH, McLoon LK. Masticatory Muscles: Response to Neuromuscular Diseases and Specific Pathologies. In: Craniofacial Muscles: A New Framework for Understanding the Effector Side of Craniofacial Muscles. Eds: LK McLoon, F Andrade. Springer, 2012.
  • Willoughby CL, Christiansen SP, Mustari MJ, McLoon LK. Effects of sustained release of IGF-1 on extraocular muscle of the non-human primate: Adaptations at the effector organ level. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012;53:68-75.
  • Willoughby CL, Ralles S, Christiansen SP,  McLoon LK. Effects of sequential injections of hepatocyte growth factor and insulin-like growth factor-1 on adult rabbit extraocular muscle.  J AAPOS. 2012;16(4):354-60.

Invited Talks:

  • Willoughby CL, Christiansen SP, Mustari MJ, McLoon LK, 2011, "Effect of Sustained Release IGF-1 on Extraocular Muscle of the Non-Human Primate: Adaptations at the Effector Organ Level," Young Investigator Talk, Gordon research Conference on Eye Movements, Biddeford MN.

Awards and Honors:

  • National Eye Institute of the NIH, Plexon and Blackrock Travel Fellowship, 2011
  • Young Investigator Talk, Gordon Conference on Eye Movements, 2011

Home Town:

  • Overland Park, Kansas
Christy Willoughby