Vision is in the Brain of the Beholder – Part 2

Tom Albright is a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute who studies the parts of the brain that are responsible for visual perception and visually guided behavior.  Dr. Albright made a cameo appearance in a video filmed quite awhile ago for P.A.V.E. (Parents Active in Vision Education).

At the 4:05 mark of the video, Dr. Albright offers the following observation:

“There is no question that there are a large number children who are diagnosed at some point during the course of their education as learning disabled. I firmly believe that one possible cause for this, is the failure of the visual system to process information in a normal way.”

More recently, Dr. Albright sat down with The Science Network to film an interview titled Perception and the Beholder’s Share.  I strongly encourage you to make the time to watch this entire video.  Dr. Albright has long been fascinated by the visual process, how it is that our brain creates a visual picture that is imbued with much more information than what is registered at the retinal level.  Here then is an irony of vision:  much of what impinges on the retina is filtered so that it doesn’t interfere with the goals of the embodied brain, yet much of what is seen by the brain is filled in and colored by memory and other visual association processes and pathways.  The following image comes from an article authored by Dr. Albright in the journal Neuron — On the perception of probable things: neural substrates of associative memory, imagery, and perception.  It conveys that by the repeated pairing of stimulus A with event B over time, the prefrontal cortex can feed information to the visual cortex just as vividly when the stimulus is absent.


In the interview, and in the article in Neuron, Dr. Albright explains that he was a postdoctoral fellow of the neuroscientist Charlie Gross at Princeton, and credits Gross for leapfrogging Hubel and Wiesel in looking at the role of visual association areas as filling in the visual percept.  Many years later, Gross met the author Joyce Carol Oates at a party in Princeton and the two subsequently married.  Listen to what Oates says at the 2:40 mark of this interview about being an artist:

“What’s nice about being an artist is that I don’t think anybody really cares about the process.  They only care about the final work.”

Albright seems to be saying something a bit different.  That neuroscience is very interested in the creative process – even to the point of understanding how architecture and where learning is housed influences the individual.   Certainly we as clinicians and therapists have been very interested in the creative process, and I’ll elaborate more on that in Part 3.

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