Professor Nikos Logothetis
Director of Biological Cybernetics
Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics,
October 22, 1999
Researcher Honored for Exploring How the Brain Differentiates Visual Illusion from Reality
Berkeley, CA....The Berkeley-based Minerva Foundation has named vision researcher Nikos Logothetis the winner of its 1999 Golden Brain Award for pioneering work that explores visual perception. The Foundation presents the Golden Brain Award each year to a researcher who makes a fundamental contribution to our knowledge of vision and the brain.
Logothetis, professor of neuroscience and director of the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen, Germany, studies how the brain makes sense of conflicting images when the eyes see an optical illusion-for example, a three-dimensional cube in which the walls appear to face first in one direction and then in another. (See graphic.)
Working with monkeys whose visual system is very similar to that of humans, Logothetis tracks the activity of individual neurons in the brain, using electrophysiological methods, to learn more about the mechanisms of perception. He complements this single neuron approach with functional magnetic resonance imaging, using a new technique developed for studying monkeys in his laboratory.
His work suggests that the neurons interpreting what we see are distributed over the entire visual pathway, as opposed to residing in a single higher vision association area of the brain.
Furthermore, the areas of the brain involved in planning and decision making-for example, the areas of the frontal lobe, as suggested by other investigators-may control the process that selects a particular image when there are conflicting images, as in the case of an optical illusion. This selection process is not limited to visual stimuli but may also apply to auditory and other sensory stimuli.
Logothetis will receive the Golden Brain Award, October 27, at a private dinner in Miami Beach, FL, where he will be attending a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
The Minerva Foundation was established in 1984 to promote basic research in vision and the brain. Past Golden Brain Award winners are William Newsome and Denis Baylor of Stanford University; Robert Wurtz of the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, MD; John Allman of the California Institute of Technology; Rudiger von der Heydt, Jeremy Nathans and Gian Poggio of The Johns Hopkins University; David Sparks of Baylor College of Medicine; Semir Zeki of University College, London; Robert Desimone of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); Antonio Damasio of the University of Iowa College of Medicine; Anne Treisman of Princeton University; Claudio Galletti of the University of Bologna, Italy; and Heinz Wässle of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany.