In the Visuomotor Laboratory we are interested in how the brain guides how we move. For example, if some one wants to grab a certain piece of fruit out of the bowl, the brain takes in the location of the apple and this visual information is used to guide the arm to the apple. The act of choosing an object to look at is considered visual attention. After a person visually selects the object, the next step is to move toward it. The act of choosing which path to take to get to that object is considered motor attention.

Our lab studies this interaction of how visual information is used to guide motor behavior.  Specifically, we are interested in a part of the brain called the parietal cortex, and how attention might be involved in the process of decision-making described above. Controversy exists, however, regarding how visual attention and motor attention (intention) interact with one another. One hypothesis suggests visual attention and motor attention are controlled by one mechanism, or process, in the brain. Other evidence suggests these two attentional processes are independent of one another.

Currently in our lab we are performing behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments to address this important issue. A better understanding of the role of parietal cortex in attention-mediated processes will ultimately help people with brain problems such as Alzheimer’s Disease or stroke.


How does the brain control movement?

 PHOTOS: Left - Members of the lab presented their work at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago. Top Right - Equipment used to collect eye movement (saccade) data. Bottom Center - Example of eye movement data collected during an experiment. Bottom Right - 3-D rendering of a human brain illustrating a portion of the right posterior parietal cortex thought to be responsible for attention-mediated activity.