June 16, 2024
Retinal Imaging

A New Study Discovers Brain Circuits Transforming Sensory Signals into Color Perceptions

Columbia University researchers have made a groundbreaking discovery, identifying for the first time the neural circuitry in fruit flies that converts raw sensory data into color perceptions, enabling them to navigate their environment. The team’s findings were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The vibrant colors we encounter daily, such as the red of a juicy strawberry or the deep brown in a child’s Retinal Imaging, are not inherent in the world but are rather perceptions created by our brains, explained Rudy Behnia, Ph.D., a principal investigator at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute and the study’s corresponding author. Colors are the brain’s way of making sense of the various wavelengths of light detected by the eyes.

Understanding how we perceive the world around us may seem like a straightforward question, but answering it is a complex task, Dr. Behnia added. By deciphering the neural principles underlying color perception in fruit flies, she hopes to shed light on how brains extract essential features from the environment, helping organisms survive and prosper.

In their latest research, the team identified distinct networks of hue-selective neurons in fruit flies, which respond selectively to different colors based on their wavelengths. Hue refers to the perceived colors associated with specific wavelengths or combinations of wavelengths of light, which are not inherently colorful themselves. These hue-selective neurons are located within the optic lobe, the part of the brain responsible for vision.

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