Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Chance discovery sheds new light on vision

21.07.2010
A chance discovery has led Australian scientists to question key assumptions about how our vision works.

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, The Vision Centre and The University of Sydney, ph +61 2 9382 7631 or 0423 011 061
Professor Trevor Lamb, The Vision Centre, ph +61 (0)2 61258929 or 0434022375
Julian Cribb, The Vision Centre media contact, 0418 639 245
http://www.vision.edu.au/

Professor Paul Martin | scinews.com.au
Further information:
http://www.vision.edu.au/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells
22.08.2017 | National University Health System

nachricht Biochemical 'fingerprints' reveal diabetes progression
22.08.2017 | Umea University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>