Neuroscientists generally think of the front end of the human visual system as a simple light detection system: The patterns produced when light falls on the retina are relayed to the visual cortex at the rear of the brain, where all of the “magic” happens that transforms these patterns into the three-dimensional world view that we perceive with our mind’s eye.
Now, however, a brain imaging study – published online by the journal Nature Neuroscience on Mar. 2 – challenges this basic assumption. Using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a team of researchers from Vanderbilt and Boston universities, have discovered that more complex processing occurs in the initial stages of the visual system than previously thought.
Specifically, they have found evidence of processing in the human lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), a small node in the thalamus in the middle of the brain that relays nerve impulses from the retina to the primary visual cortex.
An important function of the visual cortex is the processing of rudiments of shape, the angles of lines and edges, which are important for defining the outlines of objects. The researchers found that the human LGN is also sensitive to the orientation of lines and that this effect is enhanced when a person simply pays attention to the orientations in an image.
“Our results demonstrate that even the simplest brain structures may play a fundamental role in complex neural processes of perception and attention,” said Frank Tong, professor of psychology at Vanderbilt, who conducted the study with postdoctoral fellow Michael Pratte and Sam Ling at Boston University.
“They also highlight how higher cortical areas can influence and modulate how we see by modifying the responses of neurons at the earliest stages in the visual pathway through feedback connections.”
“The findings challenge the conventional wisdom about how and where in the brain the processing of visual orientation information first occurs,” commented Michael A. Steinmetz, acting director of the Division of Extramural Research at the National Eye Institute, which provided funding for the study.
“The research also underscores the concept that the perception of visual stimuli evolves from dynamic processes in widely distributed networks in the brain.”
The research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01 EY01782 and R01 EB000461 and NIH Fellowship F32-EY022569.
Senior Research Writer
David Salisbury | Vanderbilt University
At last, butterflies get a bigger, better evolutionary tree
16.02.2018 | Florida Museum of Natural History
New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom
16.02.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy