Sussex neuroscientist wins multimillion-pound grant to investigate visual processing
By: Jessica Gowers
Last updated: Monday, 17 May 2021
A neuroscientist at the University of Sussex has received a £3 million grant from the largest medical charity in the world.
The Plasticity of Visual Circuits project, led by Professor Leon Lagnado, has been awarded a £3 million Investigator Award over six years from the Wellcome Trust to explore how circuits of neurons process visual information.
The project will aim to understand how visual processing is adjusted under different situations, such as a new visual environment or the animal's own body clock.
Researchers in the Lagnado Lab will use the funding to build new equipment which will allow them to both watch and manipulate the activities of the neurons of zebrafish as they respond to different visual stimuli.
The researchers will then compare the signals flowing through different parts of the zebrafish brain to further our understanding of computations that underlie vision and to explore how these are implemented by neurons and synapses. By doing this, they ultimately aim to explain how circuits of neurons control how an animal responds to visual information.
Professor Lagnado is an expert in sensory neuroscience and was the founding Director of Sussex Neuroscience, the largest Strategic Research Programme at the University of Sussex.
He said: “I feel privileged to be given this long-term funding from the Wellcome Trust because it allows our team to plan more ambitious research projects. But I’m not the only one: two of my colleagues in the School of Life Sciences, Tom Baden and Sylvia Schroeder, have recently received five-year grants from Wellcome to investigate the neural circuitry of vision. This scale of investment is recognition of the growing strength of Sussex in Sensory Neuroscience.”
Researchers based at the Centre for Sensory Neuroscience and Computation, such as Professor Lagnado, are interested in how the brain processes information arriving through our senses. This multi-disciplinary group includes researchers from the Schools of Life Sciences, Psychology and Engineering and Informatics.
Professor Lagnado added: “Sensory Neuroscience is a particularly strong area of research at the University of Sussex, strengthened by its multi-disciplinary nature. Computational principles learnt from biology are then applied to program the “brains” in robots, for instance. This cross-over is epitomised by the new Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship programme in Biomimetic AI that Thomas Nowotny, Andy Philippides and Paul Graham have just launched.”
The Plasticity of Visual Circuits project will commence early next year and is funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Wellcome Investigator Awards enable independent researchers with a compelling research vision to tackle the most important questions in science. For more information about the grant scheme, visit the Wellcome Trust website.