Information Processing in Insects
Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Werner Reichhardt
The departments research focused on the processing of information in the nervous system of Drosophila and helped clarify vision in motion. In 1977 they had a successful breakthrough, when discovering that flies use motion discontinuities in their visual surroundings to distinguish objects from the background. Flies turn towards a single, randomly textured stripe in front of an equally textured background, but only as long as it moves relative to the ground.
The Founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
Werner Reichardt was one of the most prominent figures in the mathematical study of behaviors in complex organisms. His research focused mainly on the processing of information in the nervous system of Drosophila and helped clarify vision in motion. Together with Bernhard Hassenstein and Hans Wenking he analyzed the properties of the insect sight and its influence on the flight orientation.
Of note are his contributions to our understanding of how a relatively simple connection and correlation of light detector outputs was able to explain detection of motion direction - this has become known as the so-called Reichardt-detector.
He further developed the correlational analysis to encompass higher-level processing, such as tracking of figures, and separation of the visual environment into figure and ground using motion analysis.
In 1960 the Max Planck Society offered Werner Reichardt an independent department at the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen. Through his initiative this department was to become the foundation of today’s Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. In 1968, Werner Reichardt became the founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. Here he worked up to his retirement in 1992.
Werner Reichardt's findings became recognized as general neuroscience principles well outside the original field of insect studies and helped to establish the new field of Biological Cybernetics, an interdisciplinary field at the junctions of mathematics, control theory, biology, and computer science.
In memoriam Werner E. Reichardt (1924-1992) see page 2