PLATYPUS Journeys

Bologna’s experience of Pablo (point 4) by Pablo Sanz Diez

Early Stage Researcher: Pablo Sanz Diez.

Destination: Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

Period: From 09-2019 to 03-2020.

Bologna… I really liked it! Many reasons come to my mind… It could be for the great amount of history in its streets, or for the reddish color of its monuments, or the youthful atmosphere, or for its incredible gastronomy… For all these reasons, the capital of Emilia-Romagna was for me a very pleasant surprise. Even better was my experience in the department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences of the University of Bologna. The people who conform this lab were the responsible ones, they made me feel at home.
After the first few days of adapting to the department’s facilities, I began to dig into the intricacies of my Platypus project, which aimed at investigating the effects of motor adaptations on size perception. Although new challenges, concepts and experimental techniques were appearing every day, the facilities of the department greatly facilitated my stay. I had the opportunity to work with a mobile eye tracking system (Pupil Labs) and a motion capture system (VICON). Both were the core of my project and allowed us to perform accurate measurements on more than twenty participants, to all of whom I am very grateful for their participation. In addition, the results obtained under this project were presented at the annual meetings VSS 2021 and SfN 2021. Awesome! See you soon, Bologna!

Visit to Monash University, April – September 2019 by Jakob Schwenk

I spent six months in 2019 in Melbourne working with Adam Morris (and others) on marmoset electrophysiology. I worked on two projects that looked at the interaction of the temporal and spatial dimensions in the processing of visual information in area V1. The resources at Monash allowed me to get data on this from animals under anesthesia as well as from awake, behaving animals. I spent much of my stay on developing novel analyses to extract stimulus-related information from these neural signals. For this, I benefited greatly from the scientific environment at Monash, in particular the weekly seminars, discussions and journal club. 

Apart from the science, what helped me a lot was that for my first couple of days I overlapped with David Engel, also from our group, who was just finishing his time in Melbourne. With him having been in the same situation a few months earlier, I was able to benefit first-hand from his experiences and got used to everything pretty quickly. But, then again, Melbourne is a very convenient city to live in. The only thing I (coming from Germany to Australia after all) underestimated was how uncomfortable winters in Melbourne can get…

– Jakob Schwenk

Visiting the APlab at Boston University (BU) – by Annegret Meermeier

First of all, visiting Boston in the fall is a great idea. The parks as e.g. the Charles River Esplanade or my personal favorites the Jamaican Pond and the Arnold Arboretum offer ravishing views in fall. The foliage alone attracts a lot of tourists and when you get there, you know why. Boston is a very nice city with quite a bit of historic charm, lots of students and academic employees, sports and other public events.

Settling into the APlab went smoothly thanks to the very welcoming people who work there. After getting into C++ Coding (which was new to me) I could soon get a hands-on of the Dual Purkinje Eye tracker, the centerpiece of the Boston Lab. The DPI eyetracker can also be coupled to a stimulus deflector, an optico-electronic device that allows real-time image stabilization by shifting the image in the same direction and amount as the eye movements, with a spatio-temporal accuracy of 6 ms and 10″. During my stay I could also help with the testing of a newly developed machine, the digital DPI eye tracker which allows sub-arcminute resolution.
I was able to collect some data of the blind spot borders in 5 subjects, and a lot of data in my own eye, which we submitted as contributions to the VSS 2018.

—  Annegret Meermeier

Matteo Filippini visits Zeiss

My journey to the Zeiss Vision Science Lab, Tubingen

Period: from 17 September to 04 November 2017.

I’m having the pleasure to work with the Zeiss’s research group here in Tubingen. Although I cannot hide that my first impact was a little confusing, because this actually is my first experience in a foreign country, people here are great to helping you to make you feel like at home.

My project concerns the development of a virtual reality framework useful to study visuo-motor interactions by means of gaze-contingency psychophysical experiments. Although VR applications are not my specialty, I have always wanted to throw myself into and I am really enjoying it. In fact, in Bologna, I am more dedicated to electrophysiology and neural decoding algorithms but, I am already starting to picture some VR application possibly relevant with monkeys! Anyway, for the moment, I just focus on my actual project to give to Annalisa and Katharina the chance to work with these new intriguing methods!