Rudy Behnia

My commitment: Uncovering how our brain sees the world around us

It’s hard to imagine a world where we can’t see motion, shapes, and color, where we can’t have a representation of the physical world in our heads. This representation does not happen automatically, since the brain has no direct connection with the outside world.

I want to understand how we build these representations—how we encode sensory information within the brain. I focus on two aspects of vision: how we detect movement around us, and the way we distinguish distinct colors in the world around us. Working with fruit flies, I record the activity of neurons as they encounter visual stimuli such as flashes of light and moving bars. By identifying the sensory circuits that are activated, we can start to identify what each type of neuron is doing while vision is happening.

Understanding vision will tell us a lot about how the rest of the brain works. Uncovering how nerve cells in the brain perform computations in the visual system also tells us how they can process information in general.