Last month Dr David Hubel died, aged 87. He was a giant in visual neuroscience, and his work with Dr Torsten Wiesel led to the collaborators sharing (with Roger Sperry) the 1981 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine.

“Hubel & Wiesel”’s work on visual processing in the cerebral cortex showed that the brain breaks down visual information into component parts for processing, before relaying it on to higher centres where it is reassembled and an image perceived.  They discovered and described a visual cortex in which cells are arranged in “orientation columns” that respond to line stimuli of different angles, and “ocular dominance columns” perpendicular to the orientation columns, that respond to input from one eye or the other. 

Hubel & Wiesel described the anatomical and physiological basis for amblyopia, in which any condition that interferes with sight during a critical period of development can lead to loss of vision due to the failure of connections between the eye and brain. It is no exaggeration to say that their work underpins all of paediatric eye care.

Vale Dr Hubel.