A team of UR scientists, led by Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Greg DeAngelis, may have just discovered a secret that has long eluded scientists – how a single eye is capable of judging depth. The secret boils down to a small area of the brain, according to DeAngelis and his team in their published findings found in the March 20 online issue of the journal Nature.

DeAngelis explained how the brain judges depth using relative positioning to construct an image of the three-dimensional world.

“We use binocular disparity, occlusion, perspective, and our own motion all together to create a representation of the real, 3-D world in our minds,” DeAngelis said.

DeAngelis’s research shows how neurons in the middle temporal area of the brain combine visual information and physical movement to measure depth in a scene.

“It looks as though in this area of the brain, the neurons are combining visual cues and non-visual cues to come up with a unique way to determine depth,” DeAngelis said.

According to DeAngelis, the moving eye can judge the overall movement of objects in relation to each other because the middle temporal neurons have enough information to interpret how close and far objects move in different directions. The findings have the potential to help children with misalignment of the eyes recover some of the normal functions of bincoular vision and can someday help create even more realistic virtual realities.

Leber is a member of the class of 2011.

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