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David H. Hubel

From Academic Kids

David Hunter Hubel (b. February 27, 1926) was co-recipient with Torsten Wiesel of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for their discoveries concerning information processing in the visual system; the prize was shared with Roger W. Sperry for his independent research on the cerebral hemispheres.

Contents

Research

The Hubel and Wiesel experiments greatly expanded the scientific knowledge of sensory processing. In one experiment, done in 1959, they inserted a microelectrode into the primary visual cortex of an anesthetized cat. They then projected patterns of light and dark on a screen in front of the cat. They found that some neurons fired rapidly when presented with lines at one angle, while others responded best to another angle. They called these neurons "simple cells." Still other neurons, which they termed "complex cells," responded best to lines of a certain angle moving in one direction. These studies showed how the visual system builds an image from simple stimuli into more complex representations (Goldstein, 2001).

Hubel and Wiesel received the Nobel Prize for their work on ocular dominance columns in the 1960s and 1970s. By depriving kittens from using one eye, they showed that columns in the primary visual cortex receiving inputs from the other eye took over the areas that would normally receive input from the deprived eye. These kittens also did not develop areas receiving input from both eyes, a feature needed for binocular vision. Hubel and Wiesel's experiments showed that the ocular dominance develops irreversibly early in childhood development. These studies opened the door for the understanding and treatment of childhood cataracts and strabismus. They were also important in the study of cortical plasticity (Goldstein, 2001).

Biography

Hubel was born in Windsor, Ontario to American parents. He studied math and physics at McGill University, and then entered medical school there. In 1954, he moved to the United States to work at Johns Hopkins University, but was drafted by the army and served at Walter Reed Hospital. There, he began recording from the primary visual cortex of sleeping and awake cats. In 1958, he moved to Johns Hopkins and began his collaborations with Wiesel. One year later, he joined the faculty of Harvard University.

References

Goldstein, B. 2001. Sensation and Perception, 6th ed. London: Wadsworth.

External link

Nobel Prize Biography (http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1981/hubel-autobio.html)

Eye, Brain, and Vision - online book (http://neuro.med.harvard.edu/site/dh/index.html)

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