What is reality and how is the perception of reality created in the brain? While these questions have been debated by philosophers for centuries, concrete scientific investigation has remained elusive. Technological advances in several fields, especially virtual reality and brain-machine interface, have recently made it possible to address these fundamental questions scientifically. Using these techniques we have investigated one aspect of these big questions: How does the brain create perception of abstract space and time? All animals must move in space, as a function of time, and hence must have a very clear perception of space-time, one that all other animals, across different species must agree upon. Yet space and time are abstract as they cannot be directly touched, smelled or seen. I will describe some surprising results of our experiments and computational modeling. I will also describe future engineering challenges and opportunities, in hardware, software and analysis , to tackle these fascinating questions.
Mayank Mehta is a Professor in the departments of Physics and Astronomy, Neurology, and Neurobiology at UCLA. During 2004 to 2009, he was at the Brown University. Since 2010, he has been the Director of Keck Center for Neurophysics. He was a Visiting Professor in the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Norway during 2009-2012. He was a Visiting Professor at the International Center for Theoretical Studies during 2012-2015. Mayank Mehta has honors including a Honorary Member of Faculty of 1000, Honorary Member of the Norwegian Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, and nomination by the UCLA for the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience for 2012. He is a Member of Editorial Board in Nature Scientific Reports, and an Associate Editor for Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience.