Robert H. Wurtz

National Institutes of Health

Primary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 52, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1988)


Robrrt Wurtz is distinguished investigator emeritus in the National Eye Institute of the NIH. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1958. He received his Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology from the University of Michigan in 1962, where his thesis advisor was James Olds. He then went to Washington University in St. Louis as a postdoctoral fellow, and then to the NIH, and in 1966 joined the Laboratory of Neurobiology. In 1978 he established the Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research in the National Eye Institute, where he created a major center in the world for study of the neuronal mechanisms of the visual and oculomotor systems in non-human primates. He is known for his own work in developing the now widely used method for training monkeys to hold their eyes steeady so that visual receptive fields could be studied in awake behaving animal. He did the first experients on the viausl and oculomotor organization of the suerior colliculus, and identified the first corollary dischage circuit in the monkey visual system and determined what its functions might be. He is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine and was elected President of the Society for Neuroscience.

Research Interests

Robert Wurtz maintains an interesst in the organization of the visual and oculomotor systems and their integration in both humans and nonhuman primates. The functions of interest include both their roles in perception and the generation of movement. His special interest is centered on the function of the corollay discharge that provides an internal signal to the brain that indicates that a movment is about to be made. This interest includes the role of the corollary dischage in both normal brain function as well as its pathologies in the human brain.

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