Their results show the brain is more flexible and versatile than the computer it is often likened to, and even may lead to new tests for blinding diseases such as glaucoma.
Previously it was thought that the brain’s ability to discern colour depends on a specialised nerve ‘colour channel’, but now, say researchers from The Vision Centre and Sydney University, it appears some colour-sensing cells can also signal movement.
“In this research we discovered that blue sensing cells not only can respond to black and white patterns, but surprisingly are even sensitive to the direction of pattern movement,” explains team leader Professor Paul Martin.
“In diseases like glaucoma, your colour vision is impaired. Now we have discovered that the colour cells can also sense black and white and movement, that gives us a new way of testing to see if the cells are healthy or not. Our colleagues in The Vision Centre include experts at designing tests for glaucoma, and they now have a new clue that may make their tests even more sensitive,” he adds.
The serendipitous finding happened when young researcher Maziar Hashemi-Nezhad decided to carry out an unplanned experiment that came up with a totally unexpected result.
“It was chance. Maziar was in the lab, late at night, and decided to see if he could get colour vision cells to respond to a moving black and white pattern – something which was considered most unlikely because the prevailing scientific view was they respond only to colour. He saw an immediate response,” Prof Martin says.
“This is an example of how ‘blue sky’ science may lead to a practical outcome. The goal of this work is not to study glaucoma, it is really all about trying to interpret the signals on the ‘fax line’ that connects the eyes to the brain – this discovery takes us one small step closer to understanding what is really going down the fax line,” he explains.
“For a long time we’ve had an image of the brain as a kind of computer, with particular pathways – or ‘wires’- for particular nerve signals. Now it is becoming clear the wiring is a lot less precise than a computer. But imprecise wiring is actually flexible because it creates many backup pathways to compensate for aging and damage,” Prof. Martin says.
The researchers’ paper “Receptive field asymmetries produce color-dependent direction selectivity in primate lateral geniculate nucleus” by Chris Tailby, William Dobbie, Samuel Solomon, Brett Szmajda, Maziar Hashemi-Nezhad, Jason Forte and Paul Martin has just appeared in the Journal of Vision (2010), Volume 10 (8), pages 1-18.
The Vision Centre is funded by the Australian Research Council as the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science.More information:
Professor Paul Martin | scinews.com.au
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences