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Featuring Rich Krauzlis, PhD, Senior Investigator, National Eye Institute

This seminar will be held in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus (9th floor lecture hall). Columbia University’s Intercampus Shuttle Service is the best way to travel between campuses.

The ability to detect and recognize events in the environment is a fundamental building block of animal behavior. In many vertebrates, visual events can be detected and classified (e.g., predator or prey) by midbrain circuits even before signals reach the forebrain. However, in primates the bulk of visual processing takes place in the cerebral neocortex, where the addition of new areas and circuits supports the ability to recognize and assign meaning to a seemingly limitless number of visual objects. It is commonly assumed that the expanded cortical processing in primates supplants the central role formerly occupied by midbrain circuits, but in this talk I will present evidence that this assumption is untrue in some very interesting ways. First, I will review evidence that the midbrain superior colliculus in primates plays a surprisingly important role in detecting behaviorally relevant events. In particular, we have found that activity in the superior colliculus is both necessary and sufficient to explain perceptual choices about detecting visual events. Second, using fMRI and electrophysiology in monkeys, combined with reversible inactivation of the superior colliculus, we have identified an area in the temporal lobe of cortex with both attention-related and object-selective activity that depends on inputs from the superior colliculus. This temporal cortical area may provide a bridge between cortical and midbrain circuits, linking event detection signals from the superior colliculus with more detailed visual object information that depends on cortical processing. Our work illustrates that a key step toward understanding higher-order brain functions — and the etiology of brain disorders — may be to identify how older subcortical circuits interact with more recently evolved components in the neocortex.

Rich Krauzlis earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and doctorate in Neuroscience from UC San Francisco, in Steve Lisberger’s laboratory. After postdoctoral training with Fred Miles and Bob Wurtz at the National Eye Institute, he was recruited to the Salk Institute in 1997, where he was promoted to Full Professor in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory. In 2011, Rich returned to the NEI as a Senior Investigator in the Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research and Chief of the section on Eye Movements and Visual Selection. Work in Rich’s laboratory is aimed at understanding how the brain accomplishes higher-order functions such as visual perception and selective attention, by measuring and manipulating neuronal activity during task performance. Rich’s vita includes papers on eye movements and attention, physiological studies of the superior colliculus, cerebellum, basal ganglia and cerebral cortex, psychophysical studies of visual motion perception and visual attention, and computational modeling. His recent work has focused on the problem of how evolutionarily older subcortical structures interact with cortical areas during visual selective attention and perceptual decision-making.


Those who wish to meet the speaker during their visit should contact Gabe Stine (Shadlen lab). For general inquiries please contact programs@zi.columbia.edu.

The Columbia Neuroscience Seminar series is a collaborative effort of Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, the Department of Neuroscience, the Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior and the Columbia Translational Neuroscience Initiative, and with support from the Kavli Institute for Brain Science.