Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control

Auditory System, Multisensory Gaze Control & Executive Function

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

We study sensorimotor integration in health and disease within Donders Themes 2 and 4 at the Neurophysics Unit of DCN. We collaborate with groups at DCC (prof. Medendorp), the clinic (Otorhinolaryngology, prof Snik, prof Mylanus; Neurology, prof Bloem, dr Praamstra; Psychiatry, prof Buitelaar), and with industry (Advanced Bionics, Oticon, Cochlear). 

We employ advanced psychophysics in humans (including patients) to study rapid eye-head gaze control, the vestibular, visual and auditory systems, and mechanisms underlying multisensory integration. In the Huygens building and at the UMC-CNS department we have fully-equipped and unique experimental setups to study human sound localization, visual perception, gaze control, and vestibular function.

We recently initiated two-photon imaging experiments of neural population activity in mouse visual cortex. Computational modeling complements our psychophysical and neurophysiological experiments. Our recent model of the Superior Colliculus precisely explains how spike trains from the neural population encode the full trajectory and kinematics of rapid eye movements. Our cybernetics model of eye-head gaze control has been applied by others in modern humanoid robots.

Within the newly acquired ERC advanced Grant ORIENT, a tight collaboration has been initiated with the visual robotics lab of prof Bernardino at the Instituto Técnico Superior in Lisbon. The goal of this project (5 yrs) is to design and test a humanoid eye-head robotic system (equipped with foveal vision, a three-dimensional oculomotor control system, a vestibular apparatus, a 3D neck-motor system, and human-like pinnae) that learns to optimally orient to specified targets in a cluttered audio-visual environment.

We also apply our knowledge to clinical research questions, related to auditory impairments and to improved implants in tight collaboration with Industry, and in psychophysical studies of the visually impaired, patients with vestibular dysfunction, and patients suffering from neurocognitive disorders (Autism, Parkinson).

Name: John van Opstal
Telephone: 024-3614251
Fax: -
Visiting address: Faculty of Science
Department of Biophysics
Heyendaalseweg 135, HG00.831
6525 AJ Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Postal address: Faculty of Science
Department of Biophysics
P.O. Box 9101
6500 HB Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Key grants and prizes

Van Opstal: ERC advanced Grant “ORIENT” (2016)  € 2.5M

Van Opstal: NWO-ALW Vici (2005) € 1.35M

Goossens:   NWO-ALW Vidi € 800k

Van Wezel and Van Ee: UU High-Potential Grant € 1.5M

Van Wezel: NWO-ALW Veni € 250k

Key publications
A.J. van Opstal: “The auditory system and human sound-localization behavior”, Elsevier Publishers, Academic Press,  Amsterdam NL, 2016

T. Borra, H. Versnel, C. Kemner, A.J. Van Opstal, and R. Van Ee: An octave effect in auditory attention. PNAS 110: 15225-15230 (2013)

H.H.L.M. Goossens and A.J. Van Opstal: Optimal control of saccades by spatial-temporal activity patterns in monkey Superior Colliculus. PloS Comput Biol, 8(5): e1002508, 2012

Oleksiak, A., Postma, A., Van der Ham, I.J.M., Klink, P.C. and Van Wezel, R.J.A.: A review of lateralization of spatial functioning in nonhuman primates. Brain Res Reviews, 67, 56-72, 2011

P. Bremen, M.M. Van Wanrooij, and A.J. Van Opstal: Pinna cues determine orienting response mode to synchronous sounds in elevation. J Neuroscience, 30:194-204, 2010