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Research

Our research seeks to understand how the brain controls movement. Our primary focus is the oculomotor system that moves our line of sight. The oculomotor system remains one of the best understood motor systems in humans. Recent work suggests that this system may not only coordinate eye-head gaze shifts, but also help initiate rapid reaching movements made when time is of the essence. 

The major research themes of the lab are outlined below, along with recent representative publications. Much of our work incorporates a cross-species perspective, where we test whether our results in our animal models generalize to humans, and vice versa. 

Neural Control of Express Responses

A recurring theme in our research is that saccadic eye movements are more tightly governed than other components of orienting. Such differences become apparent when examining the timing of muscle recruitment at the neck or upper limb. Converging evidence implicates the subcortical superior colliculus as a critical hub in our most rapid visual-to-motor transformations, be they generated by the eyes, head, or upper limb. A number of projects in human and non-human primates combine novel behavioural paradigms with muscle recordings and other neurophysiological approaches (e.g., recording or stimulation), to better understand how cortical and subcortical areas work together to optimize behaviour. Recent representative publications include

Cecala et al 2023

Dash et al 2018

We are also leveraging our understanding of the oculomotor system to better understand non-invasive forms of brain stimulation that are either well established (like transcranial magnetic stimulation) or emerging (like temporal interfererence stimulation). This applied line of work relies in part on the many ways in which oculomotor output can be measured, and is motivated by the appreciation that the effects of brain stimulation on behaviour arise from the interaction between induced activity and that present at the time of stimulation, which plays out throughout an interconnected network. For more on the thinking behind this line of work, see our recent review by Lehmann, and recent work with collaborators

Lehmann and Corneil 2022

Botzanowski_et_al_2023_bioRxiv

Leveraging the oculomotor system to better understand brain stimulation

Extending our work throughout the lifespan, during disease, and to other motor systems

Our work has provided a behavioural paradigm to reliably elicit express responses in the eyes and upper limb. Ongoing work continues to use and modify this paradigm to better understand the brain processes promoting express responses. Working with our collaborators at Western, as well as in Australia, the US, and the Netherlands, we are now exploring the implications of our findings across the lifespan, into diseases like Parkinson's Disease, and for stepping responses in the lower limb. To see examples of this line of work, see:

Contemori et al 2023

Billen et al 2023

Selen et al 2023

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