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University of Münster, Germany University of Bologna, Italy
Markus Lappe Patrizia Fattori
Svenja Gremmler Annalisa Bosco
Anne Meermeier Michela Gamberini
Rebekka Lencer Matteo Filippini
Sabine Tepper Claudio Galletti
Niklas Stein  
Frauke Heins  
Johannes Kirchner  
Krischan Koerfer  
Malte Scherff  
Jana Masselink  
Marburg University, Germany Carl Zeiss Vision, Germany
Frank Bremmer Siegfried Wahl
David Engel Katharina Rifai
Jakob Schwenk  Yannick Sauer
  Pablo Sanz Diez
Western Sydney University, Australia Monash University, Australia
Tamara Watson Adam Morris
Gabrielle Weidemann Marcello Rosa
  Konstantinos Chatzidimitrakis
University of Rochester, USA  
Michele Rucci  
Martina Poletti  

Professor Markus Lappe, Principal InvestigatorMarkus Lappe

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration: I started out as a physicist interested in complex systems, chaos and neural networks. Then I learned that the brain is the most complex system of all – and the most interesting. I became interested in visual perception since it makes up so much of our daily experience. Currently, I am most fascinated by the way our actions are both driven by and shape the perception of the visual world.

Favourite scientific discovery: I am interested in the most basic aspect of space perception, namely seeing where things are. You might think that our eyes and brain, like a camera, see things where they really are but this is actually not true. There are many illusions that make you see objects in wrong places. Some of these are related to eye movements, or maybe just eye movement preparation. Sometimes, it is as if you see things where you want to look; a bit like the proverbial lost key that a person searches for under a lantern at night because this is the only place where there is light. I have recently found that a change in perceived location of objects can be produced by modifying eye movements. The idea is simple: we detect eye movements of a subject and whenever he or she tries to look at an object we slightly shift the object away from its regular position. Doing this for a while makes the subject see the object away from its real position right from the start, and even without making an eye movement. This shows, on the one hand, that eye movements influence our perception of space and, on the other hand, that our perception of space is not like a camera but malleable though action.


Svenja GremmlerDr Svenja Gremmler, Researcher

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration: The brain does an amazing job in providing a stable and colorful representation of the environment, developed from the information carried by the light reaching our eyes. The question how our visual system acts to maintain this stability of scene representation, which information carrying signals from different brain and body areas are used and in which way they are combined, spurs me to develop new experiments that help us to understand what we see and also what we sometimes do not see.

Favourite scientific discovery: We found that after motor learning due to manipulation of visual feedback for a certain time the perceived position of objects is shifted. This result tells us that the scene representation in our brain is not only constructed from the pure visual input from the eyes but that it also reflects motor knowledge.


Annegret MeermeierAnne Meermeier, PhD student

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration: What fascinated me in the very beginning is how complex processes of visual perception could be studied using comparably straightforward methods. Using a high resolution camera we can make the fast and tiny movements of the eyes visible and study them in detail. The execution of eye movements follows physical metrics and regularities. The elegance of these tiny movements’ metrics fascinated me.

Favourite scientific discovery: Although we are mostly unaware of it, we make on average 3 eye movements per second. Making accurate saccades is crucial to perceive the world in high resolution. Our brain tunes our eye movements to be as accurate as possible, another thing that happens without us being aware of it. In my phd project until now, we found out that although we are not aware of this tuning process, this does not mean that it happens ‚automatically‘ and in a confined part of the brain. Rather it seems that what we look at can influence how we accurately we look there, a process that can only exist if several different brain regions interact.


NiklasSteinNiklas Stein, PhD student

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration: Understanding how visual perception, eye movements, locomotion and behavior work is a great challenge in itself. It becomes even more complex when you look at all these things together and examine how they interact with each other. To face this difficult task again and again and to develop new methods for research in order to better understand perception and action piece by piece inspires me in my work.

Favourite scientific discovery: When we move through the environment, we have the feeling that we perceive it completely and as a whole. We are sure that we would notice changes in it immediately. With the help of virtual reality, we were able to show that this is not the case and that even large manipulations remain hidden from us if we apply them piece by piece and in compliance with the metrics of our perceptual system.


Frauke_HeinsFrauke Heins, PhD student

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration:I have always been fascinated by how the human brain coordinates the many different processes that all contribute to our perception of the world. This interest has led me to study eye movements, which are an excellent tool for investigating the connection between our actions and our perception. 

Favourite scientific discovery: Saccadic eye movements constantly align our fovea with the objects of interest in our environment. Their accuracy is crucial for clear vision of our environment and, in particular, the objects that we want to act upon. Our brain recalibrates these saccadic eye movements such that they remain accurate under changing conditions and across the lifespan. This recalibration process, termed saccadic adaptation, is typically considered a low-level, automatic mechanism that relies on post-saccadic position error. My current research focuses on the influence of task demands and post-saccadic feedback on this learning process. The findings indicate that the post-saccadic position error is not the only source of information that can be used for adaptation. Instead, our current tasks can influence which source of information we consider relevant for error evaluation and we are able adjust our oculomotor behavior accordingly.


Johannes Kirchner, PhD studentKirchner_Johannes

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration: I obtained a MSc in Physics where I focused on the theory of nonlinear dynamics and chaos. This got me interested into neuroscience and I was intrigued by the question how neural programming works in the brain. Eye movements are particularly interesting for studying this, because they are controlled by only six muscles whose innervation can be traced back to specific areas in the brain. There are several classes of eye movements, each with a specific purpose and their unique neural signature.

Favourite scientific discovery: We developed a novel method of measuring eye movements using real-time MRI. This allows measuring eye movements even when the lid is closed, additional assessment of the ocular muscles and visualising displacements and deformations of the whole eyeball. We used this technique to discover that the eyeball lifts up by several millimetres while we blink, implicating that blinks are accompanied by a yet unknown neural activation pattern innervating the eye muscles.


Krischan Koerfer, PhD studentKrischan_Koerfer

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration: The brain is the source of every thought and every emotion. Understanding, healing and manipulating the brain is the most important science project in the 21st century and the potential impact on humankind and society are hardly imaginable. However, the brain is also the most complex single system and while we we begin to understand its structure and the function of small building blocks, science is far from revealing how the brain works on a macroscopic level. The visual system is the best researched subsystem and offers deep insights into how the brain processes complex information.

Favourite scientific discovery: It is amazing that the visual system is able to accurately perceive all kinds of motions at once. The retina receives a complex image of the environment with embedded motion signals caused by eye-movements, self-motion and object-motion alike. Based on this imperfect information the brain does compute a stable and rich environment and also reconstructs self- and object motion accordingly. This holds true for complex stimuli like biological or non-rigid motion and the human visual system still outperforms modern computer algorithms in that regard.


Jana MasselinkJana Masselink, PhD student

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration: Realizing that all our experience and behavior and every function of our body, up to the slightest feeling and the slightest thought, rely on an interplay of neurons that fire in the brain is both simple and fascinating at once. Yet, it appears that the functionality of the brain that enables this capacity could not be more complex. A central capacity is that our visual perception locates objects in the world around us and our motor system produces highly accurate movements in oder to interact with these objects. Hereby, space perception and movement production form a continuous cycle — where we see something is where we move, and where we move is where we see something (new). Studying how the brain handles this continuous cycle with such high accuracy motivates my work. 

Favourite scientific discovery: In 2002, the scientists Marc Sommer and Robert Wurtz discovered a pathway in the brain that internally tracks the size of our eye movements in space. Recently, we found out that this internal spatial perception of our movements can be altered when the brain assumes that its movement was inaccurate, e.g. when the eyes do not land where intended. Thus, while it seems straightforward that our spatial perception shapes our movements, we have to acknowledge that our movements also shape our perception of space.


Malte Scherff, PhD studentMalte_Scherff

Institute for Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration: After finishing my degree in theoretical mathematics I wanted a change and work in an area in which results are at least a little bit applicable. Hence I took the opportunity and joined a vision lab to investigate the structure and processing of optic flow. I’m fascinated how much information is carried in these flow patterns and how some of the information can be extracted on a purely visual basis. But more than that, nearly every other topic and method I learned about since the beginning of my PhD project held something completely new for me due to my academic background.

Favourite scientific discovery: There are many ways to make people experience percepts that do not match the reality. While experiencing for example optic illusions is already fun by itself most of the time, it can also be an ingenious method to gain insight in how the brain processes the input it receives. It’s possible to induce the perception of one’s own movement on a purely visual basis even against better knowledge and we found that this percept can be altered by carefully manipulating the presented stimuli.


Rebekka LencerRebekka Lencer, MD, Researcher

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Münster, Germany

Inspiration:  Since I started studying eye movements in my doctoral thesis, I am fascinated by the eyes as a window to the brain representing at the same time the master and the slave of vision. Coming from the medical world I enjoy working in multidisciplinary teams together with physicists, psychologists, engineers and others to decipher the multiple complex mechanisms that drive and control eye movements and thus the perception of the world around us.

Favourite scientific discovery: When applying for my first job as a medical doctor I was very surprised to find out that psychiatrists have a keen interest in studying disturbances of eye movement control in patients, mostly with psychotic disorders. Since then I have investigated large groups of unmedicated first-episode and chronically ill patients with different psychotic disorders to identify specific eye movement patterns that can help understand in which way sensory information processing and motor control are disturbed in patients. Additionally, I have used brain imaging techniques to relate these eye movement disturbances to alterations in cortical networks subserving eye movement control. Notably, eye movement impairments are also observed in unaffected relatives making them a risk marker for genetic susceptibility to psychosis. In my most recent work I therefore used eye movement measures as a phenotype in genome wide association studies revealing distinct genetic alterations that may contribute to the genesis of eye movement control deficits in psychosis.

PatFattori.jpgProfessor Patrizia Fattori, Principal Investigator

Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, University of Bologna

Inspiration: I have always been fascinated by the power of our brain. I admire its complexity and its perfection in physiological conditions. Starting with my PhD, as a Neuroscientist I started studying the visual cortex, and then ended up with studying the circuits linking vision to eye and hand control.

Favourite scientific discovery: We all know that a visual receptive field of a neuron is the part of the retina from which the neuron sees the world; its retinal window. Well, this is not completely true. In the posterior parietal cortex, in a part of the cortex at the interface between visual perception and arm action control, we found visual cells of a peculiar type. These cells, called “real-position” cells, have a visual receptive fields that is stable in space despite eye movements. These neurons seem to represent a kind of window on the retina that opens and closes taking into account where we are directing our eyes. This is unusual for visual neurons and contributes to our perception of space.

bosco_annalisaDr Annalisa Bosco, Researcher

Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, University of Bologna

Inspiration: My research interests are addressed at studying how the brain controls the visuomotor responses. I study these topics at two different levels: a high-order level consisting in acquisition of neural data from cerebral cortex and an execution level consisting in acquisition of behavioural data. For me, the way we perceive and interact with the world always represented interesting field to discover and investigate from different perspectives.

Favourite scientific discovery: At neural level, I contributed at the study of functional properties of cortical area V6A located in the superior parietal lobule of the macaque. In particular, I focused my studies on the role of visual information in the encoding of reaching and grasping movements and which types of coordinate systems are used to plan and execute these movements.

At the behavioural level, I am interested on the interaction between perception and action to construct models that investigate the mechanisms underlying visuomotor integration in humans. Typically, a broad research area investigates how the brain uses information extracted from environment to select and guide the actions adaptively. The questions addressed by my current research consider that relation between perception and action is not one-sided, but action can influence perception.


Dr Michela Gamberini, Researchermichela_gamberini

Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, University of Bologna

Inspiration: After the degree in Biological Sciences I was attracted by the research activity in life science and I started in Vision science during my PhD program. I started first with electophysiology of extrastriate visual areas of non-human primates to pass later on at the neuroanatomy of primate brain, coming back to my preferred analysis of histological materials with the microscope.

Favourite scientific discovery: My research activity concerns the study of the neurophysiology and the neuroanatomy of the primate visual system. In particular, I am interested in the recognition of cortical circuits and the anatomical organization of the primate cortex. I consider my relevant “scientific discovery“ the cytoarchitectonic subdivision of the parieto-occipital cortex of primate brain. I love observing histological tissue under the microscope and I have the patience and the perseverance to see even small differences in the cortical patterns. After outlining this anatomical tool, we described the cortical circuits that include the different areas that compose this large region of the brain, and we also anatomically subdivide in specific cortical areas the neurons that have been functionally studied.

JpegMatteo Filippini, PhD student

Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, University of Bologna

Inspiration: I have always been attracted from complex systems and how they work. Brain is the most complex machine existing on the earth. In the past few decades, impressive progresses in brain recording techniques and ever-increasing computer computational power are bringing us closer and closer to understand how this extraordinary machine works. I can’t miss to be here!

Favorite Science Discovery: Recently I collaborated to shed some light on the functional roles of V6A, an area of posterior parietal cortex. This area is part of a network that integrate incoming vision, tactile and proprioceptive information to elaborate plan of actions. This information could possibly be extracted, decoded and used to drive neural prosthesis in order to restore basic mobility of patients with impaired mobility. V6A elaborates reaching trajectories and hand shapes necessary to interact with objects in our peripersonal space, that’s what makes V6A unique and good source for neural prosthesis applications.

bremmerProfessor Frank Bremmer, Principal Investigator

Marburg University

My current research focuses on (i) vision during eye-movements as well as on (i) multisensory representations of spatial and motion information in the primate brain. Given that we make eye-movements more often than our heart beats, I aim to understand if and how visual perception is modulated by various classes of eye-movements. In addition, I am concerned with the interplay of the visual, auditory and tactile senses for the perception of space and self-motion.


David Engel, PhD StudentDavidEngel

Neurophysics Department, Marburg University, Center for Mind, Brain and Behavior (CMBB)

Inspiration: I went for a teacher’s degree in Physics and English, for which I chose to write my final thesis at the department of Neurophysics at our university’s physics faculty. At that time, I had already developed a keen interest in general neuroscience, since I had taken some courses on neuro- and psycholinguistics and – according to my future work –  was interested in the neural bases of learning.  During the process of the thesis this passion grew even stronger, I additionally gained insights into the psychophysical aspects and methods of neuroscience and its interdisciplinary approach in general, and from this point I decided to engage myself in a scientific career and start my PhD in neuroscience.

Favourite Scientific Discovery: Humans are able to maintain their upright posture in a myriad of conditions mainly through the interplay between their visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems. Out of those inputs and their sensory processing, vision seems to be the main contributor.  My current work primarily involves how our body reacts to the visual system encountering pertubations, which are presented in a virtual-reality environment. There are indications that subjects adapt their naturally occuring body sway during quiet standing to an oscillatory perturbation of their visual sorround in a resonating fashion. Within this field I am particularly interested in the responses of single body joints to this visual perception of motion, which seem to be peculiar to the individual subject.


Jakob_SchwenkJakob Schwenk, PhD student

Neurophysics Department, Marburg University, Center for Mind, Brain and Behavior (CMBB)

Inspiration: I studied Psychology for my undergraduate, and during that time I quickly found my passion for Neuroscience. To me, the inspiration to look at the brain comes from the fact that it is essentially an emergent phenomenon, i.e. being more than its biological parts. The complex computations it carries out, and ultimately our sensations and everything we experience, emerge from the interaction of these parts at various levels (from single neurons to small circuits to networks of multiple brain regions). Additionally, very different computational mechanisms coexist in the same neural matter. This complexity and flexibility has always fascinated me.

Favorite discovery: One of the groundbreaking new perspectives in recent years has come from the finding that oscillations in population activity are not merely an epiphenomenon, but serve specific computational goals. At the level of single areas this is often linked to a pulsed (or rhythmic) excitation and inhibition, producing certain time windows during which neural gain is enhanced. Between brain areas, the alignment of the oscillations in their phase can facilitate communication between the two areas. The flexible control of oscillatory activity is therefore an important computational mechanism, one that may often be neglected in studies employing mean firing rates as a measure.


DSC_0519 13x13cm.jpg
Dr. Siegfried Wahl, Principal Investigator

ZEISS Vision Science Lab | Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH & Ophthalmic Research Institute, University Tuebingen

Inspiration: Physicist specialized in the field of neurobiology, biophysics and vision science with strong background in developmental biology and semiconductor physics. Broad application knowledge in biomedical disciplines, especially in intraoperative solutions and medical diagnosis. Working in the field of vision science using psychophysical methodologies focusing on an understanding of the visual system to generate new optometric and ophthalmic solutions.

Favorite scientific discovery: The complex interaction of light, the eye, the lens and eyeglasses is far from being fully deciphered. When the processing of the image on the retina in the brain is better understood, then I hypothesize a significant advance in the treatment of poor vision. The goal of my research is to gain an understanding of the development of vision and of the processing of the image in the brain in many different and dynamic situations and, on this basis, to develop new ways of providing natural, optimized vision to each individual. Another item on my agenda is to research into pathological changes to perception in order to enable their diagnosis and treatment by using suitable methods at an early stage. For these patients we aim to personalized solutions for enhanced vision.


Nr 59sw 5x7cm.jpgDr Katharina Rifai, Principal Investigator

ZEISS Vision Science Lab | Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH & Ophthalmic Research Institute, University Tuebingen

Inspiration: From childhood on I was fascinated by light. Playing with prisms and lenses I was wondering how a physical property can change its appearance, and moderate the appearance of the world surrounding us. Thus I started my scientific life as a physicist, exploring the interaction of light and matter. Although very fascinating, I felt that the appearance of things in our everyday life was rather dominated by the subjective experience of light than the light itself. That is where I became interested in vision.

Favourite scientific discovery: Recently we looked into how the human visual system deals with challenging situations, and found, that the brain actively compensates for distortions to natural scenes, such as they would occur when looking through optical devices. That means, that our brain uses experience to correct misleading visual information for us, so we do not have to bother about it.


Yannick Sauer, PhD studentyannick

ZEISS Vision Science Lab, Institute for Ophthalmic Research, University Tübingen

Inspiration: Improving impaired vision can substantially increase quality of life. As a physicist, I’m fascinated by how far the design of modern optics has already progressed in compensating the eye’s imaging errors. Yet, considering that our perception strongly depends on processing of the visual system, many aspects of vision influenced by optics are still unknown and I see a high potential for research to improve quality of vision by studying the interplay between individual behavior, visual processing and optical instruments

Favorite scientific discovery: Some ophthalmic spectacle lenses distort the vision of the wearer, and many subjective reports exist of unnatural and discomforting perception during dynamic behavior caused by the lenses. However, no objective measure exists yet for this effect, making it hard to optimize lens design for reduced discomfort. In a recent study, we were able to measure the influence of distortion on self-motion perception and we even were able to predict an estimation for the misperception from the lens data. This discovery is a first step for improving optics by incorporating knowledge about complex visual processing.


Pablo Sanz Diez, PhD student Pablo_Sanz_Diez

ZEISS Vision Science Lab | Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH

Inspiration: Nature, the visual sciences, and their evolution have always fascinated me. Everything seems to work perfectly in harmony. The variety and complexity that can be found in the invertebrate visual system has always been amazing to me. Polarized light detection as a navigational mechanism, ocular regeneration capabilities, complex optical systems to stabilize the image during flight… it is amazing what nature offers us! Being aware of the existence of these visual capabilities led me to want to deeply explore how our visual system works. Specifically, the adaptive processes that allow us to operate in a dynamic visual environment.

Favourite Scientific Discovery: We have recently provided new insights into the interaction between action and perception processes. Particularly, we have investigated how size perception and saccade amplitude are affected by grasping movements and perturbations in object size. Our findings seem to indicate the presence of a learning mechanism which transfers information from motor to perceptual system.


Tamara WatsonDr Tamara Watson, Principal Investigator

Western Sydney University, Australia

Inspiration: I’m fascinated by the brain and I’m interested in understanding how it works. Up to a quarter of the human brain is devoted to visual perception so its a great place to start.

Favourite scientific discovery: It has become almost a textbook standard to say that the brain is functionally blind during an eye movement. I found that the visual brain continues to process information around the time of a saccadic eye movement even though we don’t see the stimuli in question. I’m currently asking ‘what is it the brain really sees during an eye movement?’.


morrisDr Adam Morris, Principal investigator

Monash University, Melbourne Australia

Inspiration: We’re used to the idea we perceive the world around us by relying on our five senses: vision, audition, touch, smell, and taste; but this is wrong on multiple levels. Not only are there additional senses (e.g. balance, and our sense of where our limbs are positioned), but also our perception relies critically on signals from brain regions that control movements of the body. This becomes intuitive when you consider that most sensory events are caused by our own actions, such as the tactile sensation of your arm brushing your side, the sound of your footsteps, and the ever-changing view of the world that arises from eye movements. I’m interested in the neural mechanisms that allow us to nevertheless perceive our environment accurately, particularly in the case of vision and eye movements.

Favourite discovery: The brain needs to know where our eyes are looking to make sense of incoming visual information. We seek to understand how this works by recording the activity of neurons in visual cortex during eye movements. We have shown that in addition to information about the image on the retina, neurons carry a real-time gaze signal (i.e. the angle of the eyes in the head). This neural signal can be thought of as the brain’s visual “metadata”, much like how modern-day cameras store the location and line-of-sight for each image using GPS and compass technology. We believe that it is this signal that allows vision to work even though our eyes and bodies are almost constantly moving.


rucciMichele Rucci, Principal investigator

Rochester University, USA

Research in my laboratory focuses on the computational and biological mechanisms underlying visual perception. Like other species, humans are not passively exposed to the incoming flow of sensory data. Instead, they actively seek useful information by coordinating sensory processing with motor activity. Behavior is a key component of sensory perception, as it enables control of input sensory signals in ways that simplify perceptual tasks. I believe that the link between motor activity and sensory processing is much deeper than commonly assumed and that elucidation of this synergy is critical for fully understanding sensory perception. For this reason, I follow an ecological approach that studies vision in conjunction with motor behavior (eye movements in particular) and the characteristics of natural environments.