The primary objective of this research programme is to develop a new functional architecture of the visual brain, based on two concepts: necessity and the theoretical framework of cortical networks.
In the last decades, electrophysiological and neuroimaging studies have identified more than 40 separate maps in the brain that are selectively tuned to specific visual features, such colour or motion. Brain-behaviour relationships based electrophysiology and functional neuroimaging are per definition correlational. We need neuropsychological research with patients who suffered focal brain damage to show us which brain structures are necessary (e.g. Catani & Stuss, 2012). A structure is deemed necessary when a lesion in that structure has a selective detrimental effect on the execution of that function.
Next, the proposed research programme will investigate how these necessary maps are linked together. As a theoretical perspective, this programme adopts a critical position towards the “what and where pathways” model developed by Goodale & Milner (1992), the current gold standard. Goodale & Milner postulated two major pathways; one for processing visuospatial information for motor programming, and one for visual recognition and memory. I have recently suggested an alternative model in which the maps are thought to be organised in multiple overlapping networks (De Haan & Cowey, 2011).
This research programme represents one of the most comprehensive neuropsychological programmes ever proposed for the investigation of the visual domain. The research questions will be addressed in a lesion study and neuroimaging experiments. The lesion study entails a large-scale, cohort-study involving four academic medical centres in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is uniquely placed for such a programme with four excellent teaching hospitals in close vicinity and a high density of high-field neuroimaging facilities. The ERC grant will furnish the resources to carry out the proposed studies and to set up a collaborative network that will remain an asset for future large-scale neuropsychological investigations.
- Catani, M. & Stuss, D.T. (2012) Cortex, 48, 1-6.
- De Haan, E.H.F. and Cowey, A. (2011) Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15, 460-466.
- Goodale, M.A. & Milner, A.D. (1992) Trends in Neuroscience, 15, 20-25.