Brain/Eye relationship study wins Groningen hospital €4M grant

The European Union gave a 3.8-million euro grant to neurological researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen. The scientists are trying to determine how the visual cortex responds to different vision and brain disorders, and to find out how the brain responds to developing information it receives from the eyes.

The project “NextGenVis,” led by Frans Cornelissen and Barbara Nordhjem of UMC Groningen, involves researches from 15 institutes located in six different countries. The scientists want to investigate whether visual cortex, the part of the brain responsible for visual perception, adapts or remains the same when subjected to different disorders.

While advances are made in techniques to implant microchips in the eye, it is essential to find out how the visual system as a whole works and adapts to changes, the UMCG said on Wednesday. "The researchers will use all of the latest technology for their study, including highly accurate fMRI scanners for studying the visual cortex, and special equipment for tracking eye movement. They will also develop new analysis techniques, which will enable them to combine all the information they gather to produce new, detailed data about the way the visual brain works," the medical center revealed.

One of the decisive factors when awarding the grant was the amount of knowledge that organizations had already accumulated about the brain’s ability to adapt. Frans Cornelissen is therefore optimistic about NextGenVis. “It builds on previous successful research and we can rely on a number of existing, solid partnerships,” he said. “The NextGenVis project is actually a link between several smaller partnerships already operating in Europe.”

The EU awarded this grant as a part of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie program. The aim of the program is to give novice researchers a chance to improve their skill and work alongside their established colleagues and research teams.