Brains Behind the Institute
There's a dance happening between the parts of your brain that interpret motion and those that direct the muscles that allow you to track that motion.
For example, if you're trying to catch a football, you have to know that you need to move your gaze to follow the ball's motion. This circuit goes both ways—if you're about to move to the right, your visual system will filter out the signals that don't relate to what you're expecting to do until you've completed the action. That's a pretty computationally intensive trick. And it happens all the time.
How we understand our reality, and how we react to it, has fascinated me since I was a kid. I gravitated toward hobbies related to portraying reality and understanding what reality is—I used to make films, for example. But once I was an undergraduate and learned about sensory physiology, the biology underlying sensation, it was a real awakening. I like all of neurobiology, but everything that doesn't involve things related to the senses and perception, and how our brain processes sensations, pales in comparison. It all comes back to the thrill of one fundamental problem: how the nervous system shapes its own reality based on sensory input.
The beauty of studying basic science is that it allows you to address the deeper, bigger questions in neuroscience. In that sense, science is a service and a calling—you're trying to add to the body of truth in the world, and if you can do that better than the average person, you probably should. But a challenge that academia and science now face is keeping the culture of science open-minded and free-thinking. By working in academia, many of us have been given the luxury of pursuing questions for their own sake. This kind of opportunity is critical to help foster more creativity and less pragmatism in the field.
Photo: Avery Krieger