TOPIC: Vision


LEAD NEUROSCIENTISTS: Robert Wurtz, PhD & Bevil Conway, PhD

Scientific Explanation:

The eyes, on their own, are often confused for being solely responsible for vision. However, eyes are just a gateway through which light is turned into signals for the brain to produce what we understand to be our vision. This complex process takes place in a fraction of a second: the retinas must first dismantle the light signals so that our brain can then reconstruct the image that our brain “sees” through a process of decoding and recoding. Technically, vision is the reconstruction of information in the brain. It is only when a number of different sequences and numerous neurons work correctly together that we “see” what we are looking at. 

Light information needs to be reformatted into the language of the nervous system, which means the information is reformatted as electrical impulses. However, the world contains a multitude of possible pieces of information that we could focus on at any given time. As vision is a practical function, a key part of the vision process lies in the amount of information reduction that must occur. Our brains extract the bits that are relevant for each moment, re-coding the signals so that we can use them to guide behavior. 

Creative Approach: 

Utilizing a real-time simulation, this installation presents the pathway light travels from our eyes to our visual cortex revealing the different ways that light is processed by our brain along the way. 


Synthestruct is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with sensors and real-time data to create immersive experiences, audiovisual performances, and interactive installations that explore themes in mathematics and science. Her work focuses on the ways in which we connect with and influence the perceived world around us. Synthestruct performed an audiovisual show at ARTECHOUSE in 2019 as part of the ARTECHOUSE Live series.

Synthestruct has spent years exploring the physical properties of sound through her body of work with cymatics, as well as examining the relationship between sound and its visual embodiment. With this research, she examines how different sensing technologies can expose information about ourselves and the hidden aspects of the world around us.


Robert Wurtz, PhD is a Distinguished Investigator Emeritus at the National Eye Institute. He pioneered the study of the visual system in awake-behaving monkeys, the best animal model of the human visual system. Dr. Wurtz was President of the Society for Neuroscience from 1990 – 1991 and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of  Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Wurtz, alongside Dr. Conway, advised the development of the Life of a Neuron’s presentation of how the brain makes vision possible.

Bevil Conway, PhD is an artist, a Senior Investigator in the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health where he runs the Section on Perception, Cognition and Action. His research uses single unit electrophysiology, magnetic imaging, and computational techniques to illuminate the neural foundation of perception, especially color. Dr. Conway worked closely with Dr. Wurtz to guide the development of the Life of a Neuron’s presentation of how the brain makes vision possible.