prof. dr. A.J. van Opstal (John)

Medewerker - Donders Centre for Neuroscience – Neurophysics
Medewerker - Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

prof. dr. A.J. van Opstal (John)

We aim to understand the quantitative relationships between sensory (auditory, visual, vestibular) stimuli and the resulting behavioural response, such as rapid gaze-orienting. Gaze saccades are natural orienting responses to sensory stimuli and are interesting because of the tedious coupling of fast eye- and head movements. We uncover the neural computations underlying the perception-action cycle of this spatial behaviour, including the role of motor feedback (efference copies) that guides execution and programming of gaze saccades, the neural circuitry for eye-head gaze shifts, and multisensory integration mechanisms.

Our results help to understand neural dysfunction of gaze control, and of the auditory and vestibular systems. We therefore have intensive collaborations with the otolaryngology department at UMCN.
I study the normal auditory system, but also plasticity mechanisms in response to pathology. We carry out psychophysical studies on human subjects (including patients, and e.g., children), and we have performed neurophysiological studies in trained rhesus monkeys that carried out cognitive localization tasks. We explain our data with neuro-computational models that aim for neurobiological plausibility. My facilities include five fully equipped human psychophysics labs: two unique auditory setups, one visual lab, a 2-axis vestibular setup, and a neuro-imaging NIRS-EEG lab.
A third research line concerns a humanoid robotics collaboration with the Vision Lab of the Instituto Técnico Superior of Lisbon University (prof. Bernardino).

In 1998 I received a Human Frontiers collaborative grant, in 2005 a personal Vici from NWO-ALW, in 2013 a large EU-Marie-Curie IDP grant (3.3 M€) and in 2016 a personal ERC Advanced Grant (2.6 M€). Over the last 10 years I acquired ~10 M€ in grants for my research. So far, 16 PhD students defended their thesis. My current research group consists of 10 PhD students, 2 postdocs, 1 assistant professor, and 3 technicians.

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