Sensory perception appears so deceptively easy and straight forward that it may seem to be a simple detection process merely “capturing” the environmental signals and feeding them into the brain. However, a growing body of recent research reveals that neuronal mechanisms underlying sensory perception are among the most complex of all brain operations- engaging the lion share of the human brain. At the scientific level- understanding the miraculous process by which physical energy impinging on the organism is transformed into an inner sensory experience is one of the most difficult challenges in modern neuroscience. It necessitates obtaining information at all levels of resolution- from the molecular to the organism’s behavior. Furthermore, integrating this multi level information into a coherent theory necessitates close interaction between experimentalists and theorists.
Following this overall strategy our department offers a rich and diverse range of research directions on sensory processing and perception. We study this issue at different levels of system integration- starting from single neurons, through brain circuits and networks, all the way to brain imaging and behavior of the entire organism. We conduct research on different senses- such as touch, olfaction, taste, audition, echo-location, and vision. And we conduct the research across different animal species ranging from rodents through bats all the way to humans. Finally, we conceptualize these research results in detailed, large scale models. These diverse lines, which nevertheless converge on a single fundamental question, provide synergistic knowledge essential for tackling this difficult yet exciting challenge: understanding the elusive link between sensation and the brain.