Sensorimotor systems

Eye movements are an excellent tool for studying sensorimotor systems in health and disease. This is related to highly accurate and easily applicable recording systems. Using electrophysiological and brain imaging techniques we are interested in studying basic sensorimotor mechanisms contributing to the control of gaze, visual exploration, postural balance and spatial orientation as well as cognitive processes (i.e. attention) which modulate their performance. Specifically, we study

  • short and long term memory of oculomotor (saccadic) learning
  • disorders of the vestibular systems and central mechanisms of compensation
  • spatial memory and orientation
  • neglect syndromes
  • predictive mechanisms of action planning
  • body ownership
  • attention and action-related pain processing

Methods applied in the Lab:

brain imaging (fMRI incl. resting state analysis, VBM, DTI); transcranial magnetic stimulation, posturography, limb recordings (Zebris), eye movement recordings (scleral search coil, videooculography).

Group members

Christoph Helmchen, Andreas Sprenger, Peter Trillenberg, Björn Machner, Janina v.d. Gablentz, Maximilian Jandl, Jan-Birger Kirchhoff, Inga Könemund, Carina Palzer, Caroline Voges, Jann Wojak

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Neural correlates of oculomotor disordes in cerebellar ataxia

Signs of cerebellar ataxia can be assessed by oculomotor parameters. Downbeat-nystagmus is one form of cerebellar ataxia. The eye drift velocity can be used for testing the efficacy of drug treatment or longitudinal control of disease progress.

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Brain plasticity in vestibular disorders

Using a variety of methods we are researching on compensatory mechanisms in vestibular dysfunctions.

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Cognitive modulation of pain

Pain and relief from pain massively depend on cognitive factors, e.g. expectation or prediction of oncoming pain, but also on intersensoric interactions.

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Disorders in attention and spacial perception

Hemi-spatial neglect is a common syndrome after a (right) parietal brain lesion. Patients neglect the contra-lesional visual hemifield, body parts (e.g. leg or arm) and even the dysfunction itself.

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On-line modification of visual stimuli gives new insights in memory and action planning

While exploring our visual environment we move our eye to the regions of interest, which are selected by task (top-down) or object properties (bottom-up). Using on-line modifications of stimuli during visual exploration we may simulate vision-related diseases.

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The role of prediction in the vestibulo-ocular reflex

The head impulse test (HIT, Halmagyi-Curthoys test) is a sensitive clinical examination of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) indicating semicircular canal function (gain). Predictive mechanisms during passive head impulses can be used to improve passive VOR gain in BVF patients. Furthermore, active head movements can powerfully enhance deficient VOR response, presumably by extra-vestibular signals.

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