Harvard University COVID-19 updates

Department News

THE RETINA SEEKS NOVELTY

THE RETINA SEEKS NOVELTY

Authors Toshihiko Hosoya, Stephen A. Baccus and┬áMarkus MeisterOur eyes report the visual world to the brain, but not very faithfully. Instead, the retina creates a cartoonist’s sketch of the visual scene, highlighting the edges of objects while suppressing the less interesting regions of flat illumination. Because edges are rare compared to flat regions, this amounts to a search for novel features. But what happens in a visual environment where edges are common? For example, a forest or field of grass presents many vertical edges but only rare horizontal features. Researchers in the laboratory of Markus Meister have now found that the retina adjusts to such a change and learns to suppress the commonplace vertical features while highlighting the rare horizontal features. The same principle of novelty-detection operates in many other visual environments. Apparently our thirst for novelty begins in the eye itself.

Paper in Nature

Harvard Press Release