Zielsetzung

What can I know?

What should I do?

What can I hope for?

What is a Human?

In Kant's view, the last question is the one that answers them all. So trying to understand this species, Homo sapiens sapiens (sic!), seems to be important. Human Biology, or Biological Anthropology, tries to answer the question of "humanity" from the standpoint of natural science. Our institute contributes to this aim by studying the human central nervous system, arguably the most complex and most specific human organ. We believe that most of the richness in behaviour, feelings, and emotions of human beings as compared to other animals is based on our brains. Our research is focused on those areas of the human cortex that are dealing with the processing of visual information. These areas make up about one third of the human cortex, so obviously, seeing is an important feat for humans and one that much of the brain is used for.

The Human-Neurobiology unit pursues two aims.

The first is to perform studies into the function of the normal visual system, i.e. basic vision research, employing (mostly) psychophysical techniques including eye movement recordings and hand-eye coordination, combined with multi-channel EEG-recordings and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Here, the aim is to better understand the first stages of object recognition in the visual system, including plasticity trough LEARNING, with an emphasis on hyperacuity tasks, i.e. tasks yielding thresholds either below a foveal photoreceptor (in spatial hyperacuity) or below the temporal flicker frequency (in TEMPORAL HYPERACUITY, FIGURE GROUND SEGREGATION, and PARALLEL PROCESSING) over the entire visual field.

The second aim of the unit is to make use of the results obtained within the unit as well as in other institutions pursuing basic research on the visual system to improve diagnosis (and eventually, treatment) of patients suffering from disorders of the higher portions of the visual system, i.e. for neuroophthalmological and some neurological patients. Here, as outlined under Eye Clinic, the emphasis is on developing new and fast methods for screening as well as quantitative testing of the visual field and using electrophysiological, imaging, and new psychophysical techniques in the diagnosis of neuroophthalmological disorders. Hence, the unit bridges the gap between pure basic research into the visual brain on one side and clinical applications on the other side that include the development of new tools and techniques for clinical use.