Sensory Processing and Perception
Sensory perception may appear easy and straight forward, as it seems to be a simple detection process that merely involves “capturing” the environmental signals and feeding them into the brain. However, a growing body of recent research reveals that neuronal mechanisms underlying sensory perception are among the most complex of all brain operations- engaging the lion share of the human brain. At the scientific level- understanding the process by which physical energy impinging on the organism is transformed into an inner sensory experience is one of the most difficult challenges in modern neuroscience. It necessitates studying all levels of resolution- from the molecular mechanisms to the organism’s behavior. Furthermore, integrating this multi level information into a coherent theory necessitates close interaction between experimentalists and theorists.
Following this overall strategy our department offers a rich and diverse range of research directions on sensory processing and perception. We study this issue at different levels of system integration- starting from single receptors and neurons, through brain circuits and networks, all the way to brain imaging and behavior of the entire organism. We conduct research on different senses (touch, olfaction, taste, audition and vision), various behaviors (e.g., object perception and echo location), and across different animal species ranging from rodents through bats all the way to humans. Finally, we conceptualize these research results in detailed, large scale models. These diverse lines, which nevertheless converge on a single fundamental question (that is, how brains perceive), provide synergistic knowledge essential for tackling this difficult yet exciting challenge: understanding the elusive link between sensation and the perceptual experience.