How we understand our world: Current concepts of extra-retinal information and oculomotor control

The brains ability to analyse sensory information determines how we understand our world. The more information the brain receives through our various senses, the more accurate and detailed will the perception of our surroundings appear. This, in turn, will have implications for how we respond to the broad spectrum of stimuli we receive on a daily basis in our modern society.

The structural and functional organization of the visual system is unique and outranks all of our other senses when it comes to providing the brain with sensory information. Not only does the visual system provide the brain with a larger amount of information than the other senses but the information itself arise from a more diverse complement of sensory receptor. Information from photoreceptors and photosensitive ganglion cells is cross referenced with information from proprioceptors in the oculomotor system. Sensory information from the latter type of receptors, often referred to as extra-retinal information, plays a much larger role in visual perception and our understanding of our world than previously assumed. Furthermore, this type of information also supports a broad spectrum of other non-visual biological functions and contribute in the tuning and adaptation of the other senses. This indicates that even small binocular vision anomalies may have implications for a broad spectrum of important biological functions, not only those we usually associate with binocular vision, such as fine- tuned movements, motion perception, balance, orientation and cognitive functions.

The presentation is based on published results from biomedical research undertaken by the author as well as other pertinent literature.

2017-06-26-Jan-Richard-Bruenech copia

Dr. Jan Richard Bruenech is a professor of ocular anatomy and the founding director of the Biomedical Research Unit at the faculty of Health and Social Sciences at the University of Southeast Norway.

He holds a degree in biomedicine (Candidatus magisterii/Master) as well as a degree in Optometry and Visual Science (BSc hons.) He also holds a PhD in ocular anatomy with focus on the neuroanatomical organization of the visual system and the brains ability to coordinate eye movements. The two latter degrees obtained at City University in London.

His organizational skills and competence has been obtained through a degree in research leadership at the medical faculty at Oslo University, as well as through various administrative positions at the University of Southeast Norway, including head of department, vice Dean and head of research.

These formal positions along with his dedication and enthusiasm has enabled him to build an extensive academic network. He currently collaborates with medical and academic institutions in both Europe and the USA and has done considerable research on the human central nervous system with emphasis on visual functions. He has also done comparative studies using sophisticated biomedical research methodology, including injection of stem cells into the cerebral cortex of mammals.

He has published a broad variety of scientific papers and textbook- chapters and has presented his research at scientific and medical conferences worldwide. He is a praised presenter and frequently invited as key speaker at these conferences.

His research has received a lot of international attention and the Norwegian Research Council and other academic authorities have repeatedly described his work as innovative and novel. This has resulted in a number of grants and awards as well as a substantial financial support over the years.

He currently teaches a variety of biomedical topics to optometry students, nurses, physiotherapists as well as to medical students, at all academic levels. He also supervises Master and PhD students at the faculty in Norway as well as in other European countries.

Favorite quote or phrase:

Detailed knowledge of the neuronatomical organization of the visual system is a valuable clinical tool, not only for optometrists but for all dedicated health care professionals.

What do behavioral optometry and vision therapy mean to you?

The behavioral optometry concept has arguably been ahead of its time for decades and many aspects of vison therapy are now supported through current biomedical research.