The proactive brain: EEG and eye-tracking studies of visual working memory in action

Website Dr. Freek van Ede - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Research project in Cognitive Neuroscience, with potential “broad topics” including:

·         Attentional selection of mental representations (in visual working memory)

·         Anticipation (in space and time) and anticipatory neural activity

·         Action-oriented nature of cognition

·         Inter-relations between perception, memory, and action

·         Peripheral (bodily) signatures of covert cognitive processes

·         Nature and functional relevance of brain oscillations (EEG)

In our lab (Principal Investigator: Dr. Freek van Ede), we investigate how the “cognitive brain” dynamically prepares for upcoming behavior – i.e., how we filter relevant from irrelevant sensations and how we subsequently retain, select, and transform sensory and motor representations in ‘mind’ in service of our (anticipated) goals.

We start from the perspective of the brain as a fundamentally dynamic, anticipating, and action-oriented organ. We mainly use non-invasive neuroimaging methodologies with high temporal resolution – such as EEG and eye-tracking – to investigate the governing principles, the inter-dependent nature, and the neural bases of these core cognitive functions in dynamic settings in healthy human volunteers.

Potential projects are envisioned to dive into broad questions such as: (1) how do our goals and expectations transform the way we hold visual information in mind? (2) How does the classic distinction between goal-directed and stimulus-driven sources of attentional selection apply to selection of internal representations? (3) How do attention and working-memory operations bias ongoing actions and how do our actions influence attention and working memory?

Projects are likely to build on our recent developments that provide exciting new ways to study, for example, the links between visual working memory and (parallel) action planning (ref 1), the contribution of goal-directed and stimulus-driven sources of attention to the selection of internal memory representations (ref 2), and/or the role of the brain’s eye-movement system in guiding internal attention to mental representations (ref 3). The latter discovery has additionally sparked new opportunities to use subtle biases in gaze (micro-saccades) to track internal focusing within mental representations, with high resolution in space and time.

Relevant references

1. van Ede F, Chekroud SR, Stokes MG, Nobre AC. (2019). Concurrent visual and motor selection during visual working memory guided action. Nature Neuroscience, 22, 477-483.

2. van Ede F, Board AG, Nobre AC. (2020). Goal-directed and stimulus-driven selection of internal representations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(39). 24590-24598.

3. van Ede F, Chekroud SR, Nobre AC. (2019). Human gaze tracks attentional focusing in memorized visual space. Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 462-470.

Projects are ideal for Master students with a keen interest in Cognitive Neuroscience and who wish to develop their advanced practical research skills involving EEG and/or eye-tracking acquisition and analysis.

If potentially interested, get in touch:

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