Sensation and Perception
Imagine yourself driving along on a sunny day with open car windows. The birds are singing, you feel the wind in your hair and you hear children playing somewhere ahead. Something red bounces onto the street. Instinctively, you hit the brake, and the child running onto the street after her ball is safe.
Human beings and animals can react to input coming from the environment in split seconds. This amazing ability relies entirely on the brain and the intricate interplay between sensory brain areas responsible for abilities such as hearing, seeing, or feeling.
The Sensation & Perception research labs at the Hebrew University focus on how our brain generates a representation of the world around us, combining incoming perceptual information with memory to enable us to act.
Scientists at ELSC are answering questions such as how visual input is integrated with motor planning to enable us to grasp an object, what happens in our brain when we look at others performing actions, and why complex auditory signals may be easier to analyze for our brain.
One avenue of fasniating research at the Hebrew University investigates the brain of visually impaired individuals, showing how brain areas that are normally used for sight are rewired to enable better memory in the blind. This type of brain reorganization, where brain areas take on new functions, shows the great plasticity of the human brain, with important implications for the possibility of neuronal regeneration after brain damage. Additional research has shown that people can learn to recognize shapes by means of especially designed “soundscapes”, activating shape recognition areas in the brain that are usually only activated when we perceive a shape visually. This research shows that it is essentially possible to “see” even without sight!
These investigations may make it possible to greatly improve the quality of life of millions of people, and call for a substantial investment in advanced research tools enabling the study of sensory processing at the levels of single neurons, neuronal circuits, whole brain areas, and the complex interactions between different areas of the brain, which ultimately enable us to act within our environment.