EducationPhD, University of California, San Francisco (1997)
The nervous system continuously monitors the environment and, when necessary, produces overt or covert behavior in response to the sensory stimulation. To facilitate orientation towards objects of interest, the sensory representation of target location is transformed into neural commands that evoke a complex, coordinated, and accurate movement. Thus, one aim of my research is to understand the neural implementation of coordinated movements. More specifically, I am interested in investigating cortical and subcortical mechanisms that control coordinated movements of the eyes and head, as well as integration of different types of eye movements (for example, saccades and smooth pursuit).
In producing orienting behavior, the efficacy of sensory to motor transformation depends on cognitive processes. One such mechanism, motor preparation, proposes that neural signals encoding the metrics of a desired movement develop gradually. A second area of research is geared to test the motor preparation hypothesis and to investigate the extent of its association with other sensorimotor attributes, which are emphasized by varying task-specific requirements.
These objectives are addressed using both experimental (extracellular recording, microstimulation, chemical microinjections) and computational tools (lumped and distributed network models). An understanding of the cognitive and motor processes that produce integrated orienting behavior has diagnostic value for deficits resulting from disease.