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Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine

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Spatial Cognition

The study group spatial cognition studies the different aspects of spatial Information processing in the human brain. Here fundamental research as well application-orientated clinical research is the centre of our interest.
One Target of our study group is the to get a clearer view in the mechanism of visual and spatial Information processing in the human brain and to transfer that knowledge applicable orientated in clinical issues. One centre of interest is the so-called neglect syndrome, which is mostly associated with right hemisphere brain lesions.

Perception and action are crucially based on our brain’s ability to extract information from our spatial surrounding and to form adequate internal spatial representations. These representations constitute a prerequisite for a variety of higher cognitive processes that enable us to interact with the environment. Using functional imaging, brain stimulation and behavioural techniques, the spatial cognition group investigates the neural coding of spatial information and the selection of relevant information by visuospatial attention. Our work aims at a better understanding of visuospatial information processing in both the healthy human brain as well as in situations of pathological spatial processing as observed in patients. This knowledge is then used to develop neuromodulatory, pharmacological and behavioural interventions in order to re-establish impaired visuospatial functions in neurological patients.

How is visuospatial information coded in the human brain and which factors determine how space is represented and perceived?

  • Measuring of saccades and reaction times, for instance to investigate whether visuospatial information is encoded retinotopically or spatiotopically (Zimmermann, Fink, Cavanagh, 2013)
  • Adaptation of size and magnitude
  • Visual illusions: measuring changes in perceived size induced by illusions such as the Müller-Lyer illusion (Plewan, Weidner, Eickhoff, & Fink, 2012)

MEG by Weidner

Which brain areas are involved in selecting relevant information for further processing?

  • Visual search experiments (Weidner, Krummenacher, Reimann, Müller, & Fink, 2009)
  • Studies on stimulus-response expectancies and probabilities related to selective attention
  • Studies on selective attention using spatial, motor and feature-based cues (Posner paradigm) (Vossel, Weidner, Driver, Friston, & Fink, 2012)

Posner Paradigma

How can impaired visuospatial processing be re-established in patients?

  • The hemispatial neglect syndrome (as well as awareness for impaired spatial cognition, i.e. anosognosia) often arises after lesions within the network associated with the control of attentional orienting and reorienting, especially after lesion in temporo-parietal regions. Neglect often occurs after right-hemispheric stroke and so far there is no definite evidence for interventions leading to relevant improvements for everyday functioning (Vossel, Kukolja, & Fink, 2013).

Clock drawn by neglect patient

Selected Publications:

Plewan T.,Weidner R., Eickhoff S., Fink G.R. (2012). Ventral and dorsal stream interactions during the perception of the Müller-Lyer Illusion: Evidence derived from fMRI and DCM. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience Oct;24(10):2015-2029

Vossel, S., Kukolja, J. & Fink, G.R. (2013). Neglekt. In: F. Schneider & G.R. Fink (eds.). Funktionelle MRT in Psychiatrie und Neurologie. Berlin: Springer.

Vossel S., Weidner, R., Driver, J., Friston, K.J. & Fink, G.R. (2012). Deconstructing the architecture of dorsal and ventral attention systems with dynamic causal modelling. Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 10637-10648.

Weidner R., Fink G.R. (2006) Wahrnehmung und Aufmerksamkeit. In: Schneider, Frank; Fink, Gereon R. (Hrsg.), Funktionelle MRT in Psychiatrie und Neurologie. Berlin; Heidelberg; New York; London; Paris; Tokyo; Hong Kong; Barcelona; Budapest: Springer-Verlag.

Weidner, R., Krummenacher, J., Reimann, B., Müller, H. J., & Fink, G. R. (2009). Sources of Top–Down Control in Visual Search. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21(11), 2100–2113.

Zimmermann, E., Fink, G. R., & Cavanagh, P. (2013). Perifoveal spatial compression. Journal of Vision, 13(5):21, 1-9.