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Investigating the role of frontal eye fields in oculomotor control using transcranial magnetic stimulation

Saccades are the very brief movements of our eyes that enable many cognitive tasks, from reading texts to comprehending visual scenes. Studied for over a century, they have long been thought to be an open window on the mind and the neocortex. The main underlying assumption, that saccades are purposely guided from one region of interest to another still predominates today. This assumption yet remains debatable, as recently shown by our group, but also as suggested by the prominent role of the superior colliculus in saccade programming. Given the faster time course of retinal afferents in comparison with cortical afferents, eye movements may instead be primarily under dumb bottom-up control and only secondarily modulated by top-down, frontal, projections.

The proposed project aims at testing this novel hypothesis. It will investigate the role of frontal eye fields (FEF) in eye-movement control in humans, using transcranial magnetic stimulation combined with eye tracking. The goal is to measure the effect of FEF inhibition on both the latency and the metrical properties of saccades in a variety of tasks, starting with simple saccade-targeting tasks.

The student:
– Will contribute to study design
– Will run the experiment over a pool of healthy participants
– Will participate to data analysis and interpretation.

This internship could lead to a PhD thesis.

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