Please mark your calendars for our final Vision Science Research Seminar Series (VSRSS) lecture of the Winter 2014 term, which will be held on April 22nd, in OPT 1129, at 3:30 pm. International bestselling author Susana Martinez-Conde will present a lecture entitled, "Vision is all about change".
Susana Martinez-Conde, PhD
Director, Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience, Barrow Neurological Institute
Columnist, Scientific American: Mind
Co-author, "Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions"
Keywords describing research: illusion, perception, neurophysiology, eye movements, oculomotor control, attention, cognition
Your eyes are the sharks of the human body: they never stop moving. In the past minute alone, your eyes made as many as 240 quick movements called “saccades” (French for “jolts”). In your waking
hours today, you will very likely make some 200,000 of them. A portion of our eye movements we do consciously and are at least aware of on some level. But most of these motions are unconscious and nearly imperceptible to us. Our brain suppresses the feeling of our eye jumps, to avoid the sensation that the world is constantly quaking. Even when we think our gazes are petrified, in fact, we are still making eye motions, including tiny saccades called “microsaccades” — between 60 and 120 of them per minute. Just as we don’t notice most of our breathing, we are almost wholly unaware of this frenetic, nonstop ocular activity. But without it, we couldn’t see a thing. Every known visual system depends on movement: we see things either because they move or because our eyes do. What may be most surprising is that large eye motions and miniature eye jolts help us see the world in similar ways — largely at the same time. In this presentation, I will discuss recent research from my lab showing that exploration and gaze-fixation are not all that different processes in the brain. Our eyes scan visual scenes with a same general strategy in all cases, whether the images are huge or tiny, or even when we try to fix our gaze. These findings suggest that exploration and fixation are not fundamentally different behaviors, but rather two ends of the same visual scanning continuum. They also imply that the same brain systems control our eye movements when we explore and when we fixate — an insight that may ultimately offer clues to understanding oculomotor dysfunction in neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s, that affect eye movements.
Biography of presenter
Susana Martinez-Conde received a Bachelor of Science in Experimental Psychology from Universidad Complutense de Madrid and a PhD in Medicine and Surgery from the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. She was a postdoctoral fellow with the Nobel Laureate Prof. David Hubel and then an instructor in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. She led her first laboratory at University College London, and is currently the Director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
Susana Martinez-Conde’s research bridges visual, oculomotor, and cognitive neuroscience. She has published her academic contributions in Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and written dozens of popular science articles for Scientific American. She writes a column for Scientific American: MIND on the neuroscience of illusions.
Susana Martinez-Conde’s research has been featured in print in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, The LA Chronicle, The Times (London), The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, Der Spiegel, etc., and in radio and TV shows, including Discovery Channel’s Head Games and Daily Planet shows, NOVA: scienceNow, CBS Sunday Morning, NPR’s Science Friday, and PRI’s The World. She has collaborated in research and outreach projects with world-renowned magicians and is a member of the prestigious Magic Castle in Hollywood and the Magic Circle in London. She is the Executive Producer of the annual Best Illusion of the Year Contest, and collaborates with international science museums, foundations and nonprofit organizations to promote neuroscience education and communication. Her international bestselling book Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions has been published in 19 languages, distributed worldwide, and was listed as one of the 36 Best Books of 2011 by The Evening Standard, London.