Clear signals: how intricate brain connections underpin sensory perception

18 July, 2023

Born in Bulgaria to Palestinian parents, Leena Ali Ibrahim was educated in Bulgaria and India. After completing her Ph.D. and postdoc placement in the United States, she is now continuing her research journey at KAUST in Saudi Arabia.

Ibrahim’s career journey began in a way that many would consider unconventional, and her research is equally extraordinary.

When Ibrahim was doing her Ph.D. at the University of Southern California, she identified connections between auditory and visual neurons in the top layer of the brain’s cortex that may help to combine the powers of the senses to boost sensory perception.

She explains this with the example of the cocktail party effect, where a person is having difficulty hearing what someone else is saying due to background noise at a social gathering. The act of looking at that person helps to tune out some of the noise and improves the ability to understand what they are saying. “There are lots of interactions between different sensory modalities that try to increase our signal-to-noise ratio to help us comprehend something in our visual environment,” she says.

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