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Which Way Did It Go? - New Insights into the Organization and Development of Brain Circuits That Compute Motion Direction

1/31/2012 | German House New York

Which Way Did It Go? - New Insights into the Organization and Development of Brain Circuits That Compute Motion Direction

The German Center for Research and Innovation and the Max Planck Florida Institute jointly hosted this discussion on understanding brain function and development.

Our visual systems allow us to appreciate the beauty of the world, but they didn’t evolve for that purpose. Instead, they evolved to help us survive: to avoid predators and capture prey. Central to that task is the ability to know instantly whether objects are moving and, if they are, which direction they are moving. Neuroscientists, therefore, want to understand how the nervous system constructs neurons that respond preferentially to motion in one direction, and that collectively represent the full range of motions that we experience. Is this a hard-wired feature of the brain, or is it a property that requires visual experience? Answers to these questions will pave the way for understanding more complex mental activities.

Professors Fitzpatrick and Sanes have pioneered new technologies to identify motion-sensitive neurons at multiple levels of the visual system, allowing them to elucidate the interplay between nature (genetics) and nurture (experience) in their development. Remarkably, Prof. Sanes finds that nature predominates in the retina while Prof. Fitzpatrick finds that nurture plays an important role in the cerebral cortex. Please join us as these experts discuss their research and its significance for understanding brain function and development.

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  • Featured Speakers

    • Dr. Claudia Hillinger (Welcome Remarks)

      Vice President for Institute Development, Max Planck Florida Institute (MPFI)

    • Dr. David Fitzpatrick

      Scientific Director & CEO, Max Planck Florida Institute

    • Dr. Joshua Sanes

      Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology Paul J. Finnegan Family Director, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University