Unlocking the brain’s secret: How visual information is encoded

As you’re reading this sentence, your brain is receiving and interpreting countless stimuli, all of which must be processed and encoded in the brain.

In order to make sense of your entire environment, information from our senses must ultimately combine in a dynamic manner.

How the brain unites all this different information – and what this means to brain function – is the focus of work by Associate Professor Lucy Palmer, Head of The Florey’s Neural Networks Laboratory.

To discover how we see, Lucy is leading a research team made up of top scientists from all around the world – Germany, Canada and the USA – on a new collaborative ‘OpenScope’ project awarded by the Allen Institute for Brain Science, USA.

The team is looking at how the brain encodes visual information in a specialised part of the brain called the visual cortex. For us to see and interact with our environment, visual information, including colour, angles, and movement, must all come together. Yet, how this task is ultimately performed by the brain remains a mystery to researchers.

This is where Associate Professor Palmer’s expertise in brain functional connectivity becomes paramount to the success of the project.

“It is a great honour to lead an Openscope project at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Along with leading researchers from around the world, we will use a high-throughput experimental platform to investigate one of the great mysteries of neuroscience – how the visual system is specialized to make us able to see with such amazing acuity,” says Associate Professor Palmer.