Clara moderates panel discussion on Animal Research

Clara Kuper, student assistant in our lab, will moderate a panel and audience discussion on animal research and its ethical implications on April 24, 2017. The discussion will feature a number of first-class experts on animal research and welfare, including:

Prof. Dr. Stefan Treue, Director of the German Primate Research Centre, Göttingen
Prof. Dr. Christa Thöne-Reineke, Professor for Animal Welfare, Animal Behavior and Laboratory Animal Science, FU Berlin
Dr. Richard Moore, Philosopher and Cognitive Scientist, HU Berlin
Dr. Mimi Arandjelovic, Project coordinator of the Pan African Programme, MPI Leipzig

The official poster (including more information) can be downloaded here.

Way to go, Clara!

Richard receives VSS 2017 student travel award

Congratulations to our very own Richard Schweitzer for being awarded a student travel award to attend the meeting of the Vision Sciences Society Meeting in St. Pete Beach, Florida, in May. The award is extremely competitive as only 20 out of more than 200 applicants have been selected. Quite a good start into his first VSS!

Make sure to attend Richard’s talk in the Eye Movements: Fixation and perception session, on Tuesday, May 23 (8:15 am – 9:45 am) in Talk Room 2.

VSS 2017: 3 talks, 1 poster, and 1 student travel award

We were very excited to get the news that 3 of our 4 presentations have been accepted as talks at the 2017 meeting of the Vision Sciences Society in St. Pete Beach, Florida. Partly in collaboration with Tamara Watson (University of Western Sydney, Australia) and Eric Castet (Aix-Marseille Université, France), we started working on visual processing during saccadic eye movements, which will be the main theme of our contributions this year. We are looking forward to see what people think about this new line of work.

In particular we are happy for Richard Schweitzer, who just started his PhD in the lab. He was selected for a highly competitive VSS Student Travel Award to support his trip to this year’s meeting. Congratulations!

Opinion article on Oculomotor prediction in psychosis in press in TiCS

Together with Katy Thakkar (Michigan State University) and Vaibhav Diwadkar (Wayne State University), we just wrote an opinion piece on the role of corollary discharge in psychosis, and how prediction in the oculomotor system may help us understand the complex polygenic disorder schizophrenia. The review is going to be published in one of the next issues of Trends in Cognitive Sciences. For now, here is the abstract:

Psychosis—an impaired contact with reality—is a hallmark of schizophrenia. Many psychotic symptoms are associated with disruptions in agency—the sense that I cause my actions. A failure to predict sensory consequences of one’s own actions may underlie agency disturbances. Such predictions rely on corollary discharge (CD) signals, “copies” of movement commands sent to sensory regions prior to action execution. Here, we make a case that the oculomotor system is a promising model for understanding CD in psychosis, building on advances in our understanding of the behavioral and neurophysiological correlates of CD associated with eye movements. We provide an overview of recent evidence for disturbed oculomotor CD in schizophrenia, potentially linking bizarre and disturbing psychotic experiences with basic physiological processes.

New paper: Oculomotor inhibition covaries with conscious detection

Congratulations to Alex White, whose postdoc project just appeared in the Journal of Neurophysiology! The key finding of this paper is that the pattern of miniature eye movements immediately following the appearance of a stimulus—the reflexive inhibition of so-called microsaccades—reveals whether the observer has seen that stimulus or not. To some extent, this subjective perception can even be decoded from the eye movement patterns on a single-trial level.

Here is the New & Noteworthy section of the paper:

The eyes freeze in response to stimulus onsets. We developed a novel method to compare the sensitivity of this involuntary reflex to that of explicit perceptual detection. The two responses had similar contrast thresholds and were similarly affected by pattern adaptation. They also covaried across individual trials: the eyes froze if and only if the observer reported seeing a stimulus, even when none was present. Oculomotor inhibition therefore rapidly reveals the state of conscious perception.

Workshop on Learning at the Interface of Vision and Oculomotor Control

On September 20-21, 2016, we will host a workshop on
Learning at the interface of vision and oculomotor control
It will be a satellite event of the Bernstein Conference.

Program:
An overview of the program is available here.

Abstract:
Motor control and sensorimotor integration have long been of outstanding interest for their fundamental theoretical and empirical contributions to neuroscience. Elegant behavioral, computational, and physiological studies have revealed that skilled sensorimotor function builds on experience acquired over timescales from milliseconds to a lifetime. In spite of being one of the most thriving fields of research, interactions with another core neuroscience area—the impact of self-movement on perception—remain largely unaddressed to date. In particular, research on the acquisition and maintenance of perceptual continuity across rapid movements of the eyes (saccades) has eluded comparable degree of detail and still lacks detailed mechanistic formulation. This workshop aims to bridge these differences, advancing new perspectives on how insights from sensorimotor learning may help understand transsaccadic visual processes.

To this end, we bring together behavioral, theoretical, and biological insights from eight innovative researchers, each well known for their inspiring contributions to sensorimotor control or transsaccadic visual learning. Our aim is to facilitate and inspire the transfer of knowledge between these largely disparate fields of study. Structured discussions will put particular emphasis on possible conceptual and computational links between the latest psychophysical and neurophysiological findings. We expect two major outcomes of this workshop. First, its dual focus will promote interaction between the fields of sensorimotor learning and the perceptual consequences manifested in transsaccadic recalibration, integration, and learning. Second, bringing together leading experts among physiologists, computational modelers, and psychophysicists will help establish constraints on current theories and models, explore their validity in novel domains, stimulate formulation of new hypothesis, and identify missing experiments that may falsify existing accounts.

Venue:
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Seminargebäude am Hegelplatz
Dorotheenstr. 24
10117 Berlin, Germany
Link to Google maps.

Registration:
Online registration will be open until September 12th here. On site registration is possible on the day of the workshop.

Please note that the room has a limited number of seats (about 50) — if more participants register for the workshop, participation will be possible on first come, first serve basis.

 

Tutorial:  Motor learning: An overview of methods and models
The workshop will also feature an added tutorial given by David Herzfeld from John Hopkins University in the morning of Tuesday 20th September (9:30 am) at the same venue. All registered workshop participants are welcome to participate in this tutorial, but the available number of seats will be limited.

Abstract for the tutorial:
The study of motor learning seeks to answer a fundamental question: how does the nervous system learn from a motor error? The experience of even a single movement error results in adaptation, suggesting that the motor system is constantly engaged in the process of learning. In this tutorial we begin with behavior – how do healthy subjects learn to compensate for a constant perturbation? Using studies from saccade adaptation, force-field learning, and visuomotor rotation, we will then assess a number of behavioral assays including error-sensitivity, generalization, savings, meta-learning, and implicit/explicit processes. Emphasis will be placed on mathematical models of these phenomena, including multi-rate models, the Kalman filter, a memory of errors, and models of generalization. When possible, we will describe studies suggesting the specific brain regions involved in motor learning, focusing on cerebellar contributions to adaptation.

David generously allowed us to upload the slides of his tutorial here.

Flyer_BC16_final_April16.indd

New paper: Saccadic adaptation to a systematically varying disturbance

Carlos, Sven, and Martin just had a new paper accepted in the Journal of Neurophysiology. As the title suggests, we show saccadic adaptation to a systematically varying disturbance. We are particularly happy about this work as it establishes a new paradigm to study plasticity in the saccadic system that—as we argue at length in the paper—allows us to disentangle learning processes that have been confounded in classical studies of saccadic adaptation.

Here’s the New & Noteworthy section of the paper:

Saccadic adaptation maintains the mapping between rapid eye movements and their visual targets. We studied the dynamics of this process using an intra-saccadic target displacement that changed in size as a sinusoidal function of the trial number. The oculomotor response displayed two independent components—a delayed periodic change in saccade gain superimposed on a drift towards higher hypometria (despite the displacements’ zero mean). We quantitatified this response and discuss possible origins and underlying learning processes.

Figure1

Classical fixed-step adaptation protocols (a,b) and sinusoidal saccadic adaptation (c).

You find a preprint of the paper in our list of publications.

In press: Spotlight on Remapping attention pointers

Because the eyes move, the correspondence between each location in the world and each location on the retina is arbitrary. From one fixation to the next, each object changes places on the retina. Both psychophysical and neurophysiological studies aim to better understand how we keep track of locations as the eyes move about. Yet the links between neural and behavioral findings remain obscure. Inspired by new neurophysiological findings on trans-saccadic updating of visual responses in areas V4 and MT, Martin Szinte and I have put together a Spotlight article (to appear in Trends in Cognitive Sciences), in which we discuss possible links between physiological and behavioral evidence for remapping. Their findings, we argue, shed light onto the role of attention in the continuity of perception across saccades.

You find a pdf of the paper in our list of publications.

Pre-saccadic mechanisms linking neural and behavioral evidence of remapping.

Pre-saccadic mechanisms linking neural and behavioral evidence of remapping.

New grant with Tamara Watson (Western Sydney, Australia)

We just obtained notice that Universities Australia and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) will fund our collaboration with Tamara Watson at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. The grant supports travel costs in both directions. Tamara will join our lab in Berlin during her sabbatical in the spring of 2016. Martin will have funds to travel to Sydney in return. The grant also includes extended mutual research visits for PhD students from both labs.

Together, we will work on a project entitled Steady vision: the role of discontinuity and disruption. Thus far, both labs, in their individual research, approached the same research questions from opposed theoretical positions. Tamara has employed a representationalist position while Martin’s approach has been anchored in direct perception. We believe that this difference in the underlying philosophical approach of the two groups is a major strength of this project. That is, by openly acknowledging these opposing approaches and working together to overcome conflicting assumptions, we will derive a number of  experiments that help us understand trans-saccadic perception beyond positions entertained in traditional research silos.

That should be fun!