08:20am Wednesday 23 August 2017

York U researchers discover how midbrain map continuously updates visuospatial memory

But the science behind it is not so simple.

In a groundbreaking study, York university researchers have discovered how a map in the midbrain remembers the location of visual targets even as the eyes follow another object

“As the eyes move, activity related to the remembered target travels across the ‘visual’ cells in the midbrain superior colliculus, constantly keeping track of its location relative to the direction the eyes are currently pointed,” explains Professor Doug Crawford, Canada Research Chair in Visuomotor Neuroscience in the Faculty of Health. “In our football example, when it’s time to aim an eye movement and then make a pass toward the open receiver, the visual memory is transferred to motor cells which then produce a burst of activity.”

In a study conducted in Crawford’s lab led by postdoctoral fellow Suryadeep Dash, the researchers have discovered a new physiological system that continuously updates the remembered location of visual targets. The finding also suggests that continuous updating of signals could emerge in other visuomotor areas of the brain.

“We expect that continuous updating signals also emerge in other visuomotor areas of the brain. Most of those areas have only been tested during sudden jumps in eye position called saccades, but have not been tested during behaviors that involve continuous eye motion, notes Crawford, adding, “Studying this system might help us understand how we remember where things are during other continuous motion behaviors such as walking, driving or general navigation.”

The study titled ‘Continuous updating of visuospatial memory in superior colliculus during slow eye movements’ was published today in Current Biology.

York University is helping to shape the global thinkers and thinking that will define tomorrow. York U’s unwavering commitment to excellence reflects a rich diversity of perspectives and a strong sense of social responsibility that sets us apart. A York U degree empowers graduates to thrive in the world and achieve their life goals through a rigorous academic foundation balanced by real-world experiential education. As a globally recognized research centre. York U is fully engaged in the critical discussions that lead to innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global social challenges. York U’s 11 faculties and 25 research centres are thinking bigger, broader and more globally, partnering with 280 leading universities worldwide. York U’s community is strong − 55,000 students, 7,000 faculty and staff, and more than 275,000 alumni.

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Media Contact:
Gloria Suhasini, York University Media Relations, 416 736 2100 ext. 22094


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