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By Veronique Greenwood Sign up for Science Times: Get stories that capture the wonders of nature, the cosmos and the human body. In the warm, fetid environs of a compost heap, tiny roundworms feast on bacteria. But some of these microbes produce toxins, and the worms avoid them. In the lab, scientists curious about how the roundworms can tell what’s dinner and what’s dangerous often put them on top of mats of various bacteria to see if they wriggle away. One microbe species, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, reliably sends them scurrying. But how do the worms, common lab animals of the species Caenorhabditis elegans, know to do this? Dipon Ghosh, then a graduate student in cellular and molecular physiology at Yale University, wondered if it was because they could sense the toxins produced by the bacteria. Or might it have something to do with the fact that mats of P. aeruginosa are a brilliant shade of blue? Given that roundworms do not have eyes, cells that obviously detect light or even any of the known genes for light-sensitive proteins, this seemed a bit far-fetched. It wasn’t difficult to set up an experiment to test the hypothesis, though: Dr. Ghosh, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, put some worms on patches of P. aeruginosa. Then he turned the lights off. To the surprise of his adviser, Michael Nitabach, the worms’ flight from the bacteria was significantly slower in the dark, as though not being able to see kept the roundworms from realizing they were in danger. “When he showed me the results of the first experiments, I was shocked,” said Dr. Nitabach, who studies the molecular basis of neural circuits that guide behavior at Yale School of Medicine. In a series of follow-up experiments detailed in a paper published Thursday in Science, Dr. Ghosh, Dr. Nitabach and their colleagues establish that some roundworms respond clearly to that distinctive pigment, perceiving it — and fleeing from it — without the benefit of any known visual system. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27718 - Posted: 03.06.2021

By Richard Sima Sign up for Science Times: Get stories that capture the wonders of nature, the cosmos and the human body. Though it is well-known for its many arms, the octopus does not seem to know where those eight appendages are most of the time. “In the octopus, you have no bones and no joints, and every point in its arm can go to every direction that you can think about,” said Nir Nesher, a senior lecturer in marine sciences at the Ruppin Academic Center in Israel. “So even one arm, it’s something like endless degrees of freedom.” So how does the octopus keep all those wiggly, sucker-covered limbs out of trouble? According to a study published this month in The Journal of Experimental Biology by Dr. Nesher and his colleagues, the octopus’s arms can sense and respond to light — even when the octopus cannot see it with the eyes on its head. This light-sensing ability may help the cephalopods keep their arms concealed from other animals that could mistake the tip of an arm for a marine worm or some other kind of meal. Itamar Katz, one of the study’s authors, first noticed the light-detecting powers while studying a different phenomenon: how light causes the octopus’s skin to change color. With Dr. Nesher and Tal Shomrat, another author, Mr. Katz saw that shining light on an arm caused the octopus to withdraw it, even when the creature was sleeping. Further experiments showed that the arms would avoid the light in situations when the octopus could not see it with its eyes. Even when the octopuses reached an arm out of a small opening on an opaque, covered aquarium for food, the arm would quickly retract when light was shined on it 84 percent of the time. This was a surprise, as though the octopus “can see the light through the arm, it can feel the light through the arm,” Dr. Nesher said. “They don’t need the eye for that.” ImageScientists suspect octopuses keep their arms concealed from other animals that could mistake the tip of an arm for a meal. Scientists suspect octopuses keep their arms concealed from other animals that could © 2021 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27704 - Posted: 02.23.2021

By Cara Giaimo Platypuses do it. Opossums do it. Even three species of North American flying squirrel do it. Tasmanian devils, echidnas and wombats may also do it, although the evidence is not quite so robust. And, breaking news: Two species of rabbit-size rodents called springhares do it. That is, they glow under black light, that perplexing quirk of certain mammals that is baffling biologists and delighting animal lovers all over the world. Springhares, which hop around the savannas of southern and eastern Africa, weren’t on anyone’s fluorescence bingo card. Like the other glowing mammals, they are nocturnal. But unlike the other creatures, they are Old World placental mammals, an evolutionary group not previously represented. Their glow, a unique pinkish-orange the authors call “funky and vivid,” forms surprisingly variable patterns, generally concentrated on the head, legs, rear and tail. Fluorescence is a material property rather than a biological one. Certain pigments can absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit it as a vibrant, visible color. These pigments have been found in amphibians and some birds, and are added to things like white T-shirts and party supplies. But mammals, it seems, don’t tend to have these pigments. A group of researchers, many associated with Northland College in Ashland, Wis., has been chasing down exceptions for the past few years — ever since one member, the biologist Jonathan Martin, happened to wave a UV flashlight at a flying squirrel in his backyard. It glowed eraser pink. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 8: General Principles of Sensory Processing, Touch, and Pain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 27697 - Posted: 02.19.2021

Bevil R. Conway Danny Garside Is the red I see the same as the red you see? At first, the question seems confusing. Color is an inherent part of visual experience, as fundamental as gravity. So how could anyone see color differently than you do? To dispense with the seemingly silly question, you can point to different objects and ask, “What color is that?” The initial consensus apparently settles the issue. But then you might uncover troubling variability. A rug that some people call green, others call blue. A photo of a dress that some people call blue and black, others say is white and gold. You’re confronted with an unsettling possibility. Even if we agree on the label, maybe your experience of red is different from mine and – shudder – could it correspond to my experience of green? How would we know? Neuroscientists, including us, have tackled this age-old puzzle and are starting to come up with some answers to these questions. One thing that is becoming clear is the reason individual differences in color are so disconcerting in the first place. Scientists often explain why people have color vision in cold, analytic terms: Color is for object recognition. And this is certainly true, but it’s not the whole story. The color statistics of objects are not arbitrary. The parts of scenes that people choose to label (“ball,” “apple,” “tiger”) are not any random color: They are more likely to be warm colors (oranges, yellows, reds), and less likely to be cool colors (blues, greens). This is true even for artificial objects that could have been made any color. © 2010–2021, The Conversation US, Inc.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 14: Attention and Higher Cognition
Link ID: 27682 - Posted: 02.08.2021

Jessica Koehler Ph.D. The only true voyage of discovery...would be not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is. Marcel Proust Perception is everything—and it is flawed. Most of us navigate our daily lives believing we see the world as it is. Our brains are perceiving an objective reality, right? Well, not quite. Everything we bring in through our senses is interpreted through the filter of our past experiences. Sensation is physical energy detection by our sensory organs. Our eyes, mouth, tongue, nose, and skin relay raw data via a process of transduction, which is akin to translation of physical energy—such as sound waves—into the electrochemical energy the brain understands. At this point, the information is the same from person to person—it is unbiased. To understand human perception, you must first understand that all information in and of itself is meaningless. Beau Lotto While Dr. Lotto's statement is bold, from the perspective of neuroscience, it is true. Meaning is applied to everything, from the simplest to the most complex sensory input. Our brain's interpretation of the raw sensory information is known as perception. Everything from our senses is filtered through our unique system of past experiences in the world. Usually, the meaning we apply is functional and adequate—if not fully accurate, but sometimes our inaccurate perceptions create real-world difficulty.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 14: Attention and Higher Cognition
Link ID: 27666 - Posted: 01.27.2021

Daniel Osorio The neuroscientist Michael Land, who has died aged 78 from respiratory disease, was the Marco Polo of the visual sciences. He visited exotic parts of the animal kingdom, and showed that almost every way humans have discovered to bend, reflect, shape and image light with mirrors and lenses is also used by some creature’s eye. His research revealed the many different ways in which animals see their own versions of reality, often to find members of the opposite sex. His 1976 discovery that prawns focus light not by lenses, but with a structure of mirror-lined boxes, helped lead to the discovery of a method to focus X-rays, and in the 1990s he developed a simple device to track humans’ gaze as they move their eyes while doing everyday tasks. Land’s PhD thesis at University College London in the early 1960s, on how scallops evade the attacks of predatory starfish, turned out to be a serendipitous choice. He was supposed to investigate what passes for the brain of this shellfish, but found its eyes far more interesting. Scallops have many pinhead-sized eyes, just inside the lip of the shell. Rather than focusing light with a lens as people do, they use a concave mirror in the manner of a Newtonian telescope. Moving from UCL, with his first wife, Judith (nee Drinkwater), to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1968, he turned his attention to jumping spiders. These arachnids do not build webs but are visual hunters. Each of their four pairs of eyes has a different task, and Land showed how the most acute of these eyes moves to detect prey and mates. © 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27651 - Posted: 01.20.2021

By Elizabeth Preston When Jessica Yorzinski chased great-tailed grackles across a field, it wasn’t a contest to see who blinked first. But she did want the birds to blink. Dr. Yorzinski had outfitted the grackles, which look a bit like crows but are in another family of birds, with head-mounted cameras pointing back at their faces. Like other birds, grackles blink sideways, flicking a semitransparent membrane across the eye. Recordings showed that the birds spent less time blinking during the riskiest parts of a flight. The finding was published Wednesday in Biology Letters. Dr. Yorzinski, a sensory ecologist at Texas A&M University, had been wondering how animals balance their need to blink with their need to get visual information about their environments. Humans, she said, “blink quite often, but when we do so we lose access to the world around us. It got me thinking about what might be happening in other species.” She worked with a company that builds eye-tracking equipment to make a custom bird-size headpiece. Because a bird’s eyes are on the sides of its head, the contraption held one video camera pointed at the left eye and one at the right, making the bird resemble a sports fan in a beer helmet. The headpiece was connected to a backpack holding a battery and transmitter. Dr. Yorzinski captured 10 wild great-tailed grackles, which are common in Texas, to wear this get-up. She used only male birds, which are big enough to carry the equipment without trouble. Each bird wore the camera helmet and backpack while Dr. Yorzinski encouraged it to fly by chasing it across an outdoor enclosure. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27636 - Posted: 12.22.2020

By Kelly Servick Do old and damaged cells remember what it was like to be young? That’s the suggestion of new study, in which scientists reprogrammed neurons in mouse eyes to make them more resistant to damage and able to regrow after injury—like the cells of younger mice. The study suggests that hallmarks of aging, and possibly the keys to reversing it, lie in the epigenome, the proteins and other compounds that decorate DNA and influence what genes are turned on or off. The idea that aging cells hold a memory of their young epigenome “is very provocative,” says Maximina Yun, a regenerative biologist at the Dresden University of Technology who was not involved in the work. The new study “supports that [idea], but by no means proves it,” she adds. If researchers can replicate these results in other animals and explain their mechanism, she says, the work could lead to treatments in humans for age-related disease in the eye and beyond. Epigenetic factors influence our metabolism, our susceptibility to various diseases, and even the way emotional trauma is passed through generations. Molecular biologist David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School, who has long been on the hunt for antiaging strategies, has also looked for signs of aging in the epigenome. “The big question was, is there a reset button?” he says. “Would cells know how to become younger and healthier?” In the new study, Sinclair and his collaborators aimed to rejuvenate cells by inserting genes that encode “reprogramming factors,” which regulate gene expression—the reading of DNA to make proteins. The team chose three of the four factors scientists have used for more than 10 years to turn adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which resemble the cells of an early embryo. (Exposing animals to all four factors can cause tumors.) © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27608 - Posted: 12.05.2020

Researchers at the National Eye Institute (NEI) have decoded brain maps of human color perception. The findings, published today in Current Biology, open a window into how color processing is organized in the brain, and how the brain recognizes and groups colors in the environment. The study may have implications for the development of machine-brain interfaces for visual prosthetics. NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health. “This is one of the first studies to determine what color a person is seeing based on direct measurements of brain activity,” said Bevil Conway, Ph.D., chief of NEI’s Unit on Sensation, Cognition and Action, who led the study. “The approach lets us get at fundamental questions of how we perceive, categorize, and understand color.” The brain uses light signals detected by the retina’s cone photoreceptors as the building blocks for color perception. Three types of cone photoreceptors detect light over a range of wavelengths. The brain mixes and categorizes these signals to perceive color in a process that is not well understood. To examine this process, Isabelle Rosenthal, Katherine Hermann, and Shridhar Singh, post-baccalaureate fellows in Conway’s lab and co-first authors on the study, used magnetoencephalography or “MEG,” a 50-year-old technology that noninvasively records the tiny magnetic fields that accompany brain activity. The technique provides a direct measurement of brain cell activity using an array of sensors around the head. It reveals the millisecond-by-millisecond changes that happen in the brain to enable vision. The researchers recorded patterns of activity as volunteers viewed specially designed color images and reported the colors they saw.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Cells and Structure of the Nervous System
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 2: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 27588 - Posted: 11.21.2020

By Elizabeth Pennisi When Ian Ausprey outfitted dozens of birds with photosensor-containing backpacks, the University of Florida graduate student was hoping to learn how light affected their behavior. The unusual study, which tracked 15 species in Peru’s cloud forest, has now found that eye size can help predict where birds breed and feed—the bigger the eye, the smaller the prey or the darker the environment. The study also suggests birds with big eyes are especially at risk as humans convert forests into farmland. The study reveals a “fascinating new area of sensory biology,” says Richard Prum, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University who was not involved in the new work. It also shows the size of a bird’s eye says a lot about its owner, adds Matthew Walsh, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Texas, Arlington, also not involved with the work. Light matters—not just for plants, but also for animals. Large eyes have long been associated with the need to see in dim conditions, but very little research has looked in depth at light’s impact on behavior. Recently, scientists have shown that the relative size of frogs’ eyes corresponds to where they live, hunt, and breed. And several studies published in the past 3 years suggest the eyes of killifish and water fleas vary in size depending on the presence of predators. With no predators, even slightly larger eyes offer a potential survival advantage. To find out how eye size might matter for birds, Ausprey and his adviser, Scott Robinson, an ecologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, turned to the 240 species they had identified in one of Peru’s many cloud forests. The study area included a range of habitats—dense stands of trees, farms with fencerows, shrubby areas, and open ground. Because light can vary considerably by height—for example, in the tropics, the forest floor can have just 1% of the light at the tops of the trees—they included species living from the ground to the treetops. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27554 - Posted: 10.28.2020

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff Jack Gallant never set out to create a mind-reading machine. His focus was more prosaic. A computational neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Gallant worked for years to improve our understanding of how brains encode information — what regions become active, for example, when a person sees a plane or an apple or a dog — and how that activity represents the object being viewed. By the late 2000s, scientists could determine what kind of thing a person might be looking at from the way the brain lit up — a human face, say, or a cat. But Dr. Gallant and his colleagues went further. They figured out how to use machine learning to decipher not just the class of thing, but which exact image a subject was viewing. (Which photo of a cat, out of three options, for instance.) One day, Dr. Gallant and his postdocs got to talking. In the same way that you can turn a speaker into a microphone by hooking it up backward, they wondered if they could reverse engineer the algorithm they’d developed so they could visualize, solely from brain activity, what a person was seeing. The first phase of the project was to train the AI. For hours, Dr. Gallant and his colleagues showed volunteers in fMRI machines movie clips. By matching patterns of brain activation prompted by the moving images, the AI built a model of how the volunteers’ visual cortex, which parses information from the eyes, worked. Then came the next phase: translation. As they showed the volunteers movie clips, they asked the model what, given everything it now knew about their brains, it thought they might be looking at. The experiment focused just on a subsection of the visual cortex. It didn’t capture what was happening elsewhere in the brain — how a person might feel about what she was seeing, for example, or what she might be fantasizing about as she watched. The endeavor was, in Dr. Gallant’s words, a primitive proof of concept. And yet the results, published in 2011, are remarkable. The reconstructed images move with a dreamlike fluidity. In their imperfection, they evoke expressionist art. (And a few reconstructed images seem downright wrong.) But where they succeed, they represent an astonishing achievement: a machine translating patterns of brain activity into a moving image understandable by other people — a machine that can read the brain. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Cells and Structure of the Nervous System; Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System; Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27448 - Posted: 09.02.2020

Georgina Ferry The lightning flick of the tongue that secures a frog its next meal depends on a rapid response to a small black object moving through its field of view. During the 1950s the British neuroscientist Horace Barlow established that neurons in the frog’s retina were tuned to produce just such a response, not only detecting but also predicting the future position of a passing fly. This discovery raised the curtain on decades of research by Barlow and others, establishing that individual neurons of the billions that make up the visual system contribute to the efficient processing of movement, colour, position and orientation of objects in the visual world. Barlow, who has died aged 98, combined three approaches to the question of how the brain enables us to see. He looked at how people perceive, for example measuring the smallest and faintest spot of light they could reliably detect; he studied the responses of single neurons in the retina and brain to different visual stimuli; and he developed theories to account for the relationship between what neurons are doing and the corresponding visual experience. All his work started from the principle – apparently obvious but not often stated – that a deep, mathematical understanding of what is involved in the psychological process of seeing is an essential basis for exploring how the physiological elements of the visual system serve that end. In a vivid analogy, he wrote: “A wing would be a most mystifying structure if one did not know that birds flew.” He is best known for demanding answers to the question of how such a complex system could work most efficiently. He was influenced by early computer scientists, and was a pioneer in seeing visual signals as information to be processed. His concept of “efficient coding” predicted that of all the information presented to the eye, the brain would transmit the minimum necessary, wasting no energy on redundant signals. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limite

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27433 - Posted: 08.26.2020

By Katherine J. Wu Dr. Arianne Pontes Oriá stands firm: She does not make animals cry for a living. Technically, only humans can cry, or weep in response to an emotional state, said Dr. Oriá, a veterinarian at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil. For humans, crying is a way to physically manifest feelings, which are difficult to study and confirm in other creatures. But Dr. Oriá does collect animal tears — the liquid that keeps eyes clean and nourished. In vertebrates, or animals with backbones, tears are vital for vision, Dr. Oriá said. And yet, these captivating fluids have been paid little to no attention, except in a select few mammals. “A lot of vision, we’re not aware of until it’s a problem,” said Sebastian Echeverri, a biologist who studies animal vision but doesn’t work with Dr. Oriá’s team. “We notice when tears are missing.” That’s a bit of a shame, Dr. Oriá said. Because whether it hails from dogs, parrots or tortoises, the stuff that seeps out of animals’ eyes is simply “fascinating,” she said. As she and her colleagues have reported in a series of recent papers, including one published on Thursday in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, tears can be great equalizers: Across several branches of the tree of life, vertebrates seem to swaddle their eyes with fluid in much the same way. But to help them cope with the challenges of various environments, evolution has tinkered with the tears of the world’s creatures in ways that scientists are only beginning to explore. Research like Dr. Oriá’s could offer a glimpse into the myriad paths that eyes have taken to maximize their health and the well-being of the organisms that use them. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27418 - Posted: 08.15.2020

Children wearing multifocal contact lenses had slower progression of their myopia, according to results from a clinical trial funded by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The findings support an option for controlling the condition, also called nearsightedness, which increases the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment later in life. Investigators of the Bifocal Lenses In Nearsighted Kids (BLINK) Study published the results August 11 in JAMA(link is external). “It is especially good news to know that children as young as 7 achieved optimal visual acuity and got used to wearing multifocal lenses much the way they would a single vision contact lens. It’s not a problem to fit younger kids in contact lenses. It’s a safe practice,” said BLINK study chair, Jeffrey J. Walline, O.D., Ph.D., associate dean for research at the Ohio State University College of Optometry Myopia occurs when a child’s developing eyes grow too long from front to back. Instead of focusing images on the retina—the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye—images of distant objects are focused at a point in front of the retina. As a result, people with myopia have good near vision but poor distance vision. Single vision prescription glasses and contact lenses are used to correct myopic vision but fail to treat the underlying problem. Multifocal contact lenses – typically used to improve near vision of people over the age of 40 years – correct myopic vision in children while simultaneously slowing myopia progression by slowing eye growth.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27415 - Posted: 08.12.2020

Hemant Khanna In recent months, even as our attention has been focused on the coronavirus outbreak, there have been a slew of scientific breakthroughs in treating diseases that cause blindness. Researchers at U.S.-based Editas Medicine and Ireland-based Allergan have administered CRISPR for the first time to a person with a genetic disease. This landmark treatment uses the CRISPR approach to a specific mutation in a gene linked to childhood blindness. The mutation affects the functioning of the light-sensing compartment of the eye, called the retina, and leads to loss of the light-sensing cells. According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.2 billion people in the world have some form of visual impairment. In the United States, approximately 200,000 people suffer from inherited forms of retinal disease for which there is no cure. But things have started to change for good. We can now see light at the end of the tunnel. I am an ophthalmology and visual sciences researcher, and am particularly interested in these advances because my laboratory is focusing on designing new and improved gene therapy approaches to treat inherited forms of blindness. The eye as a testing ground for CRISPR Gene therapy involves inserting the correct copy of a gene into cells that have a mistake in the genetic sequence of that gene, recovering the normal function of the protein in the cell. The eye is an ideal organ for testing new therapeutic approaches, including CRISPR. That is because the eye is the most exposed part of our brain and thus is easily accessible. © 2010–2020, The Conversation US, Inc.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27327 - Posted: 06.26.2020

By Brian Resnick@B_resnickbrian@vox.com Fix your gaze on the black dot on the left side of this image. But wait! Finish reading this paragraph first. As you gaze at the left dot, try to answer this question: In what direction is the object on the right moving? Is it drifting diagonally, or is it moving up and down? Remember, focus on the dot on the left. It appears as though the object on the right is moving diagonally, up to the right and then back down to the left. Right? Right?! Actually, it’s not. It’s moving up and down in a straight, vertical line. See for yourself. Trace it with your finger. This is a visual illusion. That alternating black-white patch inside the object suggests diagonal motion and confuses our senses. Like all misperceptions, it teaches us that our experience of reality is not perfect. But this particular illusion has recently reinforced scientists’ understanding of deeper, almost philosophical truths about the nature of our consciousness. “It’s really important to understand we’re not seeing reality,” says neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh, a research professor at Dartmouth College and a senior fellow at Glendon College in Canada. “We’re seeing a story that’s being created for us.” Most of the time, the story our brains generate matches the real, physical world — but not always. Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations. And they fill in gaps using our past experiences. All of this can bias us. Visual illusions present clear and interesting challenges for how we live: How do we know what’s real? And once we know the extent of our brain’s limits, how do we live with more humility — and think with greater care about our perceptions?

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27321 - Posted: 06.24.2020

By Elizabeth Pennisi Though not much bigger than a wooden match stick, snapping shrimp (Alpheus heterochaelis, pictured) are already famous for their loud, quick closing claws, the sound of which stuns their prey and rivals. Now, researchers have discovered these marine crustaceans have the eyesight to match this speed. In the new study, scientists stuck a thin conducting wire into the eye of a chilled, live shrimp and recorded electrical impulses from the eye in response to flickering light. The crustaceans refresh their view 160 times a second, the team reports today in Biology Letters. That’s one of the highest refresh rates of any animal on Earth. Pigeons come close, being able to sample their field of view 143 times per second, whereas humans top out at a relatively measly 60 times a second. Only some day-flying insects beat the snapping shrimp, the researchers report. As a result, what people—perhaps even Superman—and all other vertebrates see as a blur, the shrimp detects as discrete images moving across its field of vision. Until a few years ago, most researchers assumed snapping shrimp didn’t see very well because they have a hard hood called a carapace that extends over their eyes. Although the hood seems transparent, with some coloration, it wasn’t clear how well it transmitted light. But it appears to be no impediment to the shrimp detecting fast moving prey or even predators whipping by. This might be important because the shrimp tend to live in cloudy water, so they don’t have much notice when another critter is approaching them. Posted in: © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27318 - Posted: 06.24.2020

By Veronique Greenwood Hummingbirds were already impressive. They move like hurried insects, turn on aerial dimes and extract nectar from flowers with almost surgical precision. But they conceal another talent, too: seeing colors that human eyes can’t perceive. Ultraviolet light from the sun creates colors throughout the natural world that are never seen by people. But researchers working out of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory reported on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that untrained broad-tailed hummingbirds can use these colors to help them identify sources of food. Testing 19 pairings of colors, the team found that hummingbirds are picking up on multiple colors beyond those we can see. From the bird’s-eye view, numerous plants and feathers have these as well, suggesting that they live in a richer-hued world than we do, full of signs and messages that we never notice. Compared with the color vision of many other animals, that of humans leaves something to be desired. The perception of color relies on cone cells in the retina, each of which responds to different wavelengths of light. Humans have three kinds of cone cells, which, when light reflects off an apple, a leaf or a field of daffodils, send signals that are combined in the brain to generate the perception of red, green or yellow. Birds, however, have four types of cones, including one that is sensitive to ultraviolet light. (And they are far from the most generously endowed — mantis shrimp, for instance, have 16.) In lab experiments, birds readily pick up on UV light and UV yellow, a mixture of UV light and visible yellow wavelengths, says Mary Caswell Stoddard, a professor of evolutionary biology at Princeton University and an author of the new study. Likewise, researchers have long known that UV colors are widespread in the natural world, though we can’t see them. However, experiments to see whether wild birds would use UV colors in their daily lives had not yet been performed. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27313 - Posted: 06.22.2020

By Marina Wang The classic eye exam may be about to get an upgrade. Researchers have developed an online vision test—fueled by artificial intelligence (AI)—that produces much more accurate diagnoses than the sheet of capital letters we’ve been staring at since the 19th century. If perfected, the test could also help patients with eye diseases track their vision at home. “It’s an intriguing idea” that reveals just how antiquated the classic eye test is, says Laura Green, an ophthalmologist at the Krieger Eye Institute. Green was not involved with the work, but she studies ways to use technology to improve access to health care. The classic eye exam, known as the Snellen chart, has been around since 1862. The farther down the sheet a person can read, the better their vision. The test is quick and easy to administer, but it has problems, says Chris Piech, a computer scientist at Stanford University. Patients start to guess at letters when they become blurry, he says, which means they can get different scores each time they take the test. Piech is no stranger to the Snellen test. At age 10, doctors diagnosed him with chronic uveitis, an inflammatory eye disease. “I was sitting through all these tests and it was pretty obvious to me that it was terribly inaccurate,” he says. He wanted to find a way to remove human error from the Snellen exam, while improving its accuracy. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27281 - Posted: 06.04.2020

By Nicoletta Lanese, Scientists sent patterns of electricity coursing across people’s brains, coaxing their brains to see letters that weren’t there. The experiment worked in both sighted people and blind participants who had lost their sight in adulthood, according to the study, published today (May 14) in the journal Cell. Although this technology remains in its early days, implanted devices could potentially be used in the future to stimulate the brain and somewhat restore people’s vision. Known as visual prosthetics, the implants were placed on the visual cortex and then stimulated in a pattern to “trace” out shapes that the participants could then “see.” More advanced versions of these implants could work similarly to cochlear implants, which stimulate nerves of the inner ear with electrodes to help enhance the wearer’s hearing ability. “An early iteration [of such a device] could provide detection of the contours of shapes encountered,” study authors neuroscientist Michael Beauchamp and neurosurgeon Dr. Daniel Yoshor, both at the Baylor College of Medicine, told Live Science in an email. (Yoshor will start a new position at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania this summer.) “The ability to detect the form of a family member or to allow more independent navigation would be a wonderful advance for many blind patients.” The study authors crafted the letters by stimulating the brain with electrical currents, causing it to generate so-called phosphenes — tiny pinpricks of light that people sometimes perceive without any actual light entering their eyes. © 2020 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain; Chapter 2: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 27250 - Posted: 05.16.2020