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Listen or download Interview (mp3, 25 minutes, 24MB):
For over three decades, experimental psychologist J. Anthony Movshon has mapped the mysterious borderland where vision and action intersect. But he almost never made it there. Coming of age in the tumultuous late 1960s made him question whether he should give up on his interests—music and science—and consider doing something more socially relevant. Then he discovered the burgeoning vision research underway at his university, and chose to stay in science.
Since then, he has explored how humans take basic input about light and color and use it to understand the world around them. His work has helped reveal how the brain’s visual processing develops and works, how that processing translates into perception and action, and what happens when the process goes wrong. Movshon is a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2008.
Movshon recalls growing up in midtown Manhattan, an only child with unfettered access to the city’s resources. After what he calls “a brief radical phase,” Movshon finds the fun he craves when he discovers Cambridge University’s budding world of vision research. Calling on newly developed testing and measuring methods, he begins his own research on how people see and how vision affects their decisions and actions. He describes his work on amblyopia, or lazy eye, and the surprising ways the disorder can rewire vision and the brain. Movshon also discusses the challenges of balancing a healthy personal life and a vibrant scientific career, and the autonomy and independence that a life in research can afford.
The audio files linked above are part of the National Academy of Sciences InterViews series. Opinions and statements included in these audio files are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.