From TED Talks: Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.
It’s rare to find research that simultaneously advances basic science and brings good into people’s lives, but Pawan Sinha’s Project Prakash does precisely that. An investigator of human visual processing, Sinha is interested in how these brain mechanisms develop. For his work, Sinha realized the ideal subjects would be individuals who developed sight after blindness. Since he could not ethically create such an experimental population, he had to “rely on natural experiments” — children born blind, but who recovered their vision.
Sinha found these subjects in his native India, which has the world’s highest number of blind children — more than one million. They are victims of Vitamin A deficiency, congenital cataracts, and absent or atrocious medical care. But salient to Sinha’s research, many of these blind children could be treated. He glimpsed a humanitarian and scientific opportunity, and Project Prakash (Sanskrit for light) was born. More:
Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.
Dinsa Sachan on the MIT professor and his pioneering research. In the Indian Express:
It is nice to spot a familiar face in a crowd of unknowns. But how do we do that? And why do people who recover sight after years of blindness continue to have problems with perception? These are some of the questions Pawan Sinha and his lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are trying to unfold.
Growing up in the IIT Delhi campus, where his father worked in the administrative section, he went on to get a B.Tech from the institute before moving to the US to pursue a masters degree in artificial intelligence, the subject in which he also earned a doctorate. Then he joined MIT as faculty in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, where he began studying visual perception. “I have always been interested in understanding the roots of intelligence,” he says. “As an amateur artist, I was curious to understand how good painters are able to convey the essence of objects with very few brush strokes. This led to my interest in visual perception and the deeper questions of how our brains make sense of the complex information they get from sensory organs.” Even though he was initially associated with the computer science department, Sinha was fascinated by the workings of the brain and began delving into them. More: