Thanks to Functional Magnetic Resonance (fMRI), the technique that has revolutionized human neuroscience research over the last 25 years, an Italian team of neuroscientists has discovered a new visual area in the human brain. The research, led by Kyriaki Mikellidou and Maria Concetta Morrone, of the Department of Translational Medicine at the University of Pisa, has just been published in Current Biology. It analyzes the properties of this cerebral area known as prostriata, showing for the first time its own specialization in the analysis of high-speed moving objects of the visual field periphery. The research team also includes David Burr from the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology, Pharmacology and Child Health at the University of Florence and Jan Kurzawski, a PhD student of the Tuscan Neuroscience PhD program.
"Unlike other visual cortical areas that use most of their resources to analyze information from the fovea (the area with the highest acuity in the center of the visual field), explains David Burr, the area prostriata is more involved in the elaboration of stimuli presented in the periphery of the visual field."
"The area prostriata is located in a primitive part of the cerebral cortex and has peculiar features that differentiate it from the other visual areas discovered so far, says Professor Morrone. Among these, a "direct line" of communication between brain areas that control emotions and fast motion responses. Understanding the functioning of this area can generate important clinical consequences. For example, in Alzheimer's disease degenerations that anatomically correspond to prostriata have been observed: these alterations could contribute to spatial disorientation and lack of balance, characteristic of this disease in the initial stages. "
This study was carried out with the support of Vincenzo Greco of the National Research Council's Institute of Optics in Florence, who designed and built a special device intended to stimulate large visual field regions with high-speed motion pictures. This custom designed machine was purposefully conceived with amagnetic materials to work within the powerful magnetic field generated by the scanner of the Monasterium Foundation in Pisa, directed by Domenico Montanaro and Francesca Frijia.