Dr. Gabbiani is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Baylor College of Medicine. Having received the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation research prize in 2012, he just completed a one-year cross appointment at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and has international experience in the computational neuroscience field. Along with Rice faculty member Steve Cox, he is the author of Mathematics for Neuroscience.
Fabrizio Gabbiani’s research group at BCM works in the field of Theoretical Neurobiology. They mathematically model jump escape behaviors in grasshoppers. One of their findings is that this motion sequence is initiated by the multiplication of two neuronal signals in the brain. The research results have been published in well-known scientific journals such as Nature and Science. A similar multiplication operation also underlies motion vision, which lies in the center of Alexander Borst’s research interests. His department at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology investigates how flies perceive motion.
In 2009, Gabbiani developed a device that allows stimulating individual facets of the insect eye. Combining theory and experiment in a unique way, Borst and Gabbiani are going to try to identify the neuronal basis for motion vision in the fruit fly. To reach this goal, they will redesign Gabbiani’s device so that it fits the fruit fly’s eye. It should then be possible to excite single photoreceptors behind the facets of a fly’s eye and afterward by electrical recording to identify those nerve cells that are responsible for processing motion information. Also, the scientists want to further characterize this system by blocking the activity of certain neurons. The expected change in the neuronal response will also be a topic of future studies and hopefully, give insight into the design of motion vision circuits in the fly. This scientific exchange will help elucidate what has been a scientific conundrum for many decades: How the brain sees motion.