Seeing is closer to believing: A collaboration in vision research

Using fine tweezers, Cristian inserts into the electron microscope a small copper grid that his sections are mounted on, as Rafaela watches. Image credit: Agnieszka Swiejkowska

In neuroscience, artist Rafaela Miranda-Rocha found an interest in how we visualize, perceive and appreciate our world. This is complex! The biological basis of vision involves several interconnected networks, including the eyes and optic nerves, visual processing regions in the cortex and mid-brain, and then what about how we appreciate what we see?

At first it wasn’t certain Rafaela’s curiosities could be addressed by the basal ganglia lab. But conveniently Cristian Gonzalez Cabrera, a collaborator visiting from Chile, does research on brain regions involved in vision. He wanted to use lab techniques that are well established here, so came to the ANU to learn.

Initially they met across time zones via skype. Once Cristian was in the UK, Rafaela came to the lab to talk more about how he’s able to image his brain samples at high magnification to see exactly what proteins are expressed and where, in the superior colliculus, a region important to spatial visual processing.

Cristian studies the avian (bird) brain, as a model to understand how complex visual circuits work. It’s not surprising that birds have a highly developed visual system. Imagine if we could fly; sight would no doubt be a more dominant sense for humans too.

Image credit: Agnieszka Swiejkowska

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