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Dr Samuel Solomon
Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience
Department of Psychology
26 Bedford Way
  • Reader in Visual Neuroscience
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences
  • Faculty of Brain Sciences

Research highlights
1. At the turn of the century it was generally accepted that colour processing in the retina could be entirely explained by random wiring between the cone photoreceptors and ganglion cells; however, no one had applied a direct test to this hypothesis. We suggested that if the random wiring hypothesis was sufficient, then peripheral ganglion cells, which receive input from more than 40 photoreceptors, should show no colour sensitivity. We showed that this is not the case; thus, retinal colour processing seems to be supported by much more sophisticated machinery than generally thought.

2. We have long known that colour signals leaving the retina are sent to the visual cortex by two major parallel pathways (one signals the reddish–greenishess of a surface, the other the bluish–yellowishness) but did not know how these signals are transformed in the cortex to enable the perception of colours. We showed that the signals are combined very quickly – perhaps in the cortical nerve cells that receive input from the thalamus – and are used to form both excitatory and suppressive pathways. This enabled us to ask which nerve cells in the visual cortex provide the signals necessary for colour vision, and to show that only about 10% of the cells are capable of providing such signals. 

3. The visual sensitivity of cortical neurones is known to depend on the history of stimulation and the global shape of patterns. It was believed that these properties arose first in the visual cortex, but in recordings from the retina and thalamus we found that they first arise in the retina; in particular, in the signals provided by one visual pathway (the magnocellular pathway) which is thought important in helping us know the location of objects in the world. 

Research Themes
Research Summary

I am interested in the work done by the eye and the brain to analyse the visual world and support visual perception. I'm particularly interested in how visual perception reflects the basic properties of networks of nerve cells at each level of the visual pathway. My main interests are two-fold. First, I want to understand, at the level of individual neurons and groups of them, how sensory signals interact with internal representations. Second, I want to use our substantial knowledge of the visual system to develop model systems with which we can gain insight into more complex brain functions.

Academic Background
2002 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Neuroscience University of Sydney
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