Neural Processing of Visual Information and Behavioural Context
New techniques for recording signals from neurons in visual pathways while animals actively engage in visually guided behaviour are taking our understanding of neural processing in visual cortex to a new level. They show that a variety of non-visual inputs modulate the responses of visual neurons and circuits according to behavioural context. Thus the circuits that abstract form, motion and depth are taking account of whether an animal is turning, moving its head and eyes, using visual features to navigate, repeatedly encountering stimuli, learning patterns and seeking rewards. These interactions could well play important roles in vision by increasing efficiency, by helping to align neural representations of visual space with the environment when an animal moves and navigates, and by increasing the efficacy of recognition and learning. Demonstrating these roles is challenging for several reasons. Cortical circuits are complicated, the mechanisms used to modulate circuits and their sites of action have not been resolved, and the effects of these mechanisms on behaviour are difficult to determine, partly because we lack the detailed descriptions of visually guided behaviour needed to identify effects.
This meeting addresses these challenges by bringing together groups that are using different methods and animal models to investigate the roles played by these non-visual interactions. The intention is to identify common problems and principles, and to foster collaboration. The meeting is timely. Several research groups have been established in the UK to work on this topic, and the opportunities they offer to break new ground and make important advances are widely recognised by funding agencies, universities and by students and post-doctoral researchers.
Professor Aman Saleem (UCL)
Professor Simon Laughlin (University of Cambridge, Rank Prize Optoelectronics Committee)