This technique (now used by scientists around the world) meant that researchers could record the activity of a primate's visual neurons without anesthetizing the animala process that had previously limited such research. For the first time, the physiology of visual behavior itself could be studied.
Wurtz went on to make other unprecedented discoveries. He mapped fields of individual neurons in the awake brain that receive visual information. He elucidated how different cortical areas and subcortical cell groups contribute to visual processing and how subcortical brain structures, such as the superior colliculus and the basal ganglia, initiate eye movements. He also discovered and described some of the complex pathways by which these various structures interact.
Wurtz's work has inspired the research of many others in the broad field of cognitive neuroscience, and he can be regarded as one of the founders of this area of neuroscience (a science that did not even exist when he began his research). As a result, scientists now have a deeper understanding of how the brain processes the sensory signals that underlie perception and the control of movementan understanding that has also helped to unlock some of the neurophysiological mysteries of various brain diseases and conditions, including stroke, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
"Dr. Robert Wurtz is one of those rare individuals in science who invented a field," says Michael E. Goldberg, M.D., David Mahoney Professor of Brain and Behavior in the Departments of Neuroscience, Neurology, Psychiatry and Ophthalmology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Before he discovered how to record the activity of visual neurons in awake, behaving monkeys, the study of how the brain processes vision was only done in anesthetized animals, most dramatically by the Nobel-prizewinning research of David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel. Dr. Wurtz realized that vision i
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