Werner Reichardt

The Legacy of Werner Reichardt: Integrative Neuroscience

Werner Reichardt (January 30th, 1924 – September 18th, 1992) was the founder of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, and one of its directors from 1968 until his retirement in 1992.

Two discoveries, each of them a major breakthrough in the analysis of vision marked his scientific career. The theoretical treatment of data on movement perception in beetles led to the discovery of underlying nervous interactions. The description of these interactions by the “correlation model” was the first step towards a general theory of movement detection and towards an analysis of movement-induced reactions. This analysis was applied to higher levels of information processing and was used to develop a phenomenological theory of the object-induced reactions that underlie how visually prominent figures are fixed and tracked. Based on object-induced reactions in the fly, evidence was found for the nervous interactions that allow a fly to discriminate between a figure and the ground through the evaluation within retinal images of spatial discontinuities of speed.

What appeared to be major discovery in the comparatively restricted field of insect neuroscience has now been established as a general principle of how visual information is processed not only in a variety of species, including humans, but also in technical implementations.

Further Information: An article on Werner Reichardt in Max Planck research is available for download here.