Public Release: 

Which way did it go?

New insights into the organization and development of brain circuits that compute motion direction

German Center for Research and Innovation

Our visual systems allow us to appreciate the beauty of the world, but they were mainly evolved to help us survive, by avoiding predators and capturing prey. Central to that task is the ability to instantly determine whether objects are moving, and the direction of that movement.

Professors Fitzpatrick and Sanes have each pioneered new technologies to identify motion-sensitive neurons at multiple levels of the visual system. These technologies allow them to explain the interplay between nature (genetics) and nurture (experience) in the neurons' development. Joshua Sanes, whose research introduced new ways to image synapses as they form, finds that nature predominates in the retina. Analyzing the connections that transmit information between nerve cells, he recently extended his focus to the visual system and studies how retinal circuits assemble. At Harvard University, he is Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the founding Director of the Center for Brain Science.

David Fitzpatrick, the Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director of Max Planck Florida Institute, finds that nurture plays an important role in the cerebral cortex. Previously the James B. Duke Professor of Neurobiology at the Duke University School of Medicine, he is the founding Director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. His research focuses on the functional organization and development of neural circuits in the cerebral cortex, the largest and most complex area of the brain, whose functions include sensory perception, motor control and cognition.

The event will take place on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, at 6:30 p.m., at the German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) New York, in cooperation with the Max Planck Florida Institute. Visit http://www.germaninnovation.org for more information. To RSVP, click here.

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The German Center for Research and Innovation provides information and support for the realization of cooperative and collaborative projects between North America and Germany. With the goal of enhancing communication on the critical challenges of the 21st century, GCRI hosts a wide range of events from lectures and exhibitions to workshops and science dinners. Opened in February 2010, GCRI was created as a cornerstone of the German government's initiative to internationalize science and research and is one of five centers worldwide.

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