While it has been said that the biological purpose of the brain is to
generate behaviour, you have to remember that almost half of the
cerebral cortex is devoted to vision-related functions. It follows
then that the neural processes that transform visual information
into the representations that allow us to perceive the world and
interact within it, are central to brain function. Recent research
has advanced the idea that separate visual pathways in the brain
have evolved to process visual information for use in recognizing
objects and guiding our actions.
What is often overlooked is that these two pathways do not act in
isolation. Even though there is a clear division of labour between
these perception and action systems, the two systems play a
complementary role in the production of meaningful behaviour. There
are many connections that allow for "cross talk" and interaction
between the two pathways. Dr. Marotta feels that the next big question
for this field of research is to determine how interactions between the
perception and action streams operate? The Perception and Action Lab's
multi-disciplinary approach gives its members a unique spring-board to
pursue this question.
While great strides have been made in the study of the human visual
system, we still have a long way to go in our understanding of object
recognition and visuomotor control. The specification of a detailed model
of the visual control of human grasping will not only provide us with
critical insights into the functional architecture of this important
human skill, but will also assist in the development of more efficient
control systems for robotics, tele-operations, and tele-assistance.
This is particularly true when the relevant features of a goal object
or task have to be specified without assistance from the operator
(i.e. devices for the blind or physically impaired). Ultimately, this
research will lead to the development of neuro-prosthetic devices
capable of restoring vision or mobility.