Stanford Professor Brian Wandell Shared Surprising Findings on Human Brain
Fan Yining | 06/01/2018

On May 30, NAS Member and Stanford Professor Brain Wandell delivered a guest lecture called “Surprising Stories of the Human Brain.”

Professor Wandell began his lecture by introducing the concept of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), an enormously versatile and non-invasive technology that has transformed clinical medicine. MRI has revolutionized the scientific study of the human brain; using MRI scientists can measure function while people are performing tasks or measure structure and function over development, after training, or in response to therapeutic interventions. Over the past 25 years, scientists have been developing new experimental and computational MRI methods that provide insights into the function, structure, and plasticity of the living human brain.  

Next, Wandell introduced the operational principles of the MRI scanner and the computational methods that have been developed to interpret and analyze these MRI data. He then illustrated these principles by describing findings that have provided a deeper understanding of human visual perception and brain plasticity.  

One example that Professor Wandell showed the audience was a few pictures that cause an optical illusion, which is largely the result of the brain’s interpretation of images. He also discussed Paralympic skier Mike May, who was blinded by a chemical explosion at the age of three. He lost his vision so early that his brain could not learn to interpret visual signals until receiving an advanced vision recovery operation at the age of 46. However, the operation did not fully cure his vision problem, so it is believed that vision has more to do with brain perception than the eyes themselves. 

Despite feeling under the weather, Professor Wandell took as many questions as possible during the Q&A session and humbly referred to other top researchers in the field when exchanging ideas with students and faculty members.

2018, 06-01
By Fan Yining

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