Part of our ‘They Chose OHSU’ blog series. They could have gone anywhere, and chose OHSU. These accomplished scientists, promising students and leading clinicians were convinced they could do their best work at OHSU. Here, according to each of them, is why.
Anna Wang Roe, Ph.D., is a professor in the Division of Neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and in the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience in the OHSU School of Medicine. Her cutting-edge research explores how the brain processes visual and other sensory information. Roe splits her time between her OHSU lab and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, where she directs the Interdisciplinary Institute of Neuroscience and Technology. She arrived at OHSU in 2015 after 12 years at Vanderbilt University and seven years at Yale University. She is an awardee of the Sloan, Whitehall and Packard foundation fellowships and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"What I teach students is: reality is not reality. Reality is what your brain makes of the inputs it receives. The world we know is actually a novel integration and inference of the incoming information.
“Humans are different from many animals in that our vision dominates our attention and how we think about the world. For other animals it may be smell or the touch of a whisker. For us, when we see a flashing light or something of interest, we immediately move our eyes in that direction. That’s not true of all animals.
“My research is focused on understanding visual processing within the brain. I am working toward the day when it may be possible to selectively activate different modules of the brain so that people who have lost their vision may see.
“One of the things that brought me to OHSU is the large colony of macaque monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Using advanced imaging techniques, we are mapping their brains and learning how the brain processes senses, including vision and touch, to guide motor skills and even influence emotions. They make good models for human behavior and disease.
“My team is also interested in understanding how the structure of the brain influences and even dictates behavior. Not just in perception and movement, but also in cognition. These are captivating questions.
“Philanthropic support is enormously important. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) system is where I get most of my funding, but it’s not enough to explore novel directions. Private foundation support freed me up to do something that was more risky, but offered high pay-off. It’s taken a combination of NIH support and private funding for me to really blossom.”
"I am working toward the day when it may be possible to selectively activate different modules of the brain so that people who have lost their vision may see."