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Lab news

PhD position in cognitive neuroscience/computational modelling

Uncategorised Posted on Fri, October 29, 2021 12:52:56

A phd studentship (competition funding, EASTBIO/BBSRC) is available with start on September 2022. The project investigates the neural substrate of motor eye dominance (the stable preference for one of the two eyes when sighting).

A full project description and information about the application process are available here.

You can contact me at if you have questions.

Lecture “Ocular Proprioception and Attention”, International Society for Proprioceptive Disorders, 2021

Uncategorised Posted on Thu, October 28, 2021 23:07:32

It’s been a great pleasure to record a lecture on “Ocular Proprioception and Attention” this week, at the invitation of the organizers of the International Society for Proprioceptive Disorders.

The lecture is available here.

The lecture has three parts. The first part, “Oculoproprioception: Anatomy” presents the anatomy of the oculoproprioceptive system and allows me to offer a first glimpse into new, yet unpublished, results from my lab showing an oculoproprioceptive projection in the brainstem’s oculomotor nuclei in humans likely to play a role in inter-ocular alignment.

The second part, “Oculoproprioception: Methods” details the methods that are available to study this sensory modality in humans.

The final part “Attention” presents the contribution of the oculoproprioceptive signals to the allocation of attention in space and a new hypothesis about disease mechanisms in spatial neglect, which is a disorder of spatial attention in stroke patients.

I just realised that the lecture compresses thirteen years of research into just 90 minutes. I feel very privileged to have worked on a topic I am curious about and to meet great mentors, colleagues and students along the way.

Join the lab?

Uncategorised Posted on Wed, July 01, 2020 19:18:29

If you are interested to join the lab as an Undergraduate, Master or PhD student or as a postdoctoral researcher please get in touch with Daniela at

New paper from the lab

Science Posted on Mon, May 20, 2019 11:51:52

Distorted gaze direction input to the attentional priority map in spatial neglect
Daniela Balslev and Barthel Odoj
Neuropsychologia, in press

Our new paper has just been accepted for publication in Neuropsychologia.

We report that patients with left neglect have a distorted gaze input to the attentional priority map. This finding is important for two reasons. First, it refines our theoretical models of spatial attention by highlighting the coupling between the eye and attention. Second, it forms a first step for establishing a causal link between a distortion of gaze signals present in spatial neglect and the left-right attention imbalance. This could pave the way for new strategies for patient rehabilitation in the future, where interventions could focus on the gaze direction signals.

The research has been a long time in the pipeline, and we are delighted to finally see it out there! Thanks go to our collaborators and our anonymous reviewers for their help, this has been very much a team effort. Thanks also to the funding bodies, ISSF/ St Andrews and Danish MRC.

Link to full text on St Andrews repository
Link to full text on publisher’s website

ECVP, Trieste, August 2018

Science Posted on Sun, October 21, 2018 10:04:33

Daniela presented work from the lab at ECVP in Trieste. An abstract of her presentation is below.

Gaze and attention:
mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effect of

smooth pursuit eye
movement training in spatial neglect

Daniela Balslev and Alexandra

Left smooth pursuit eye movement training
(LSPT) in response to optokinetic stimulation has become a promising
rehabilitation method in spatial neglect. The mechanisms underlying the
therapeutic effect however, remain unknown. During LSPT, errors in visual
localization in the direction of the eye movement indicate changes in the gaze
direction estimate. Here we show that in healthy participants LSPT causes not
only a shift in the perceived direction of gaze, but also a corresponding
displacement in the allocation of attention. Both changes outlast the period of
optokinetic stimulation. This result refines theoretical models for spatial
attention by highlighting a tight coupling between attention and gaze.
Furthermore, it forms a first step for establishing a causal link between the
adaptation in the sensorimotor gaze signals and the recovery in spatial

PhD position with start in September 2018, BBSRC/EASTBIO funding for 4 years

Science Posted on Tue, October 31, 2017 16:46:10

A PhD scholarship in Cognitive Neuroscience starting in September 2018 is available at the University of St Andrews. The student will use Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to investigate the role of oculosensory and oculomotor signals in spatial attention.

The project is at the interface between Psychology and Neuroscience and should be of interest to students not only in these disciplines, but also in computer science, physics, biology, engineering, maths, medicine and related areas. She or he will be supervised by me and Amelia Hunt and will join multidisciplinary teams interested in Vision Science at St Andrews and the nearby Aberdeen. Experience with TMS, eye tracking, psychophysics and Matlab programming would be an advantage, but not a requirement. The student will have the opportunity to learn these methods.

This PhD scholarship is funded via the BBSRC/EASTBIO scheme, so one of the eligibility criteria for the student is UK residency. Other funding for EU students is available from The School of Psychology and Neuroscience at St Andrews.

Application deadline for BBSRC/EASTBIO studentship: December 4th, 2017

You can read more detailed information about the project, the application procedure and the eligibility criteria here.

If interested, please get in touch, you can email me at

Seminar on the coupling between eye and attention

Science Posted on Tue, November 08, 2016 19:20:29

Dr Dan Smith from the University of Durham will give a Seminar on Friday, November 11th at 3:30 pm in the Old Library of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at St Andrews.

and dissociations between attention and oculomotor control

The systems used to control covert, mental
process such as spatial attention are closely linked with the systems used to
control eye-movements. However, the extent to which these cognitive
processes depend upon the oculomotor system remains
controversial. In this talk I will present data from behavioural and
neuropsychological experiments examining the interactions between motor
programming and covert attention. The results of these studies will be
interpreted in terms of a ‘Motor Bias’ theory of attention, which proposes that
activation in the oculomotor motor system feeds into the process of biased
competition in the visual system, but is not the sole arbiter of the locus of
spatial attention

Eye proprioception features in the IgNobel prize for Perception this year

Science Posted on Sun, October 09, 2016 13:50:38

It is very difficult to manipulate the rotation signals from the eye
Two researchers from Japan, Higashiyama and Adachi, had a cool idea, they asked people to put their
heads upside down, so muscles have to work against gravity in an
unusual way. They show changes in depth perception in this condition, which underscores the importance of the sensorimotor signals to spatial cognition.

You can read their paper here and you can have a chuckle about the 2016 IgNobels here

In our lab we have been applying Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) over the somatosensory cortex to manipulate oculoproprioception in a slightly more controlled way. No IgNobels so far…

On a serious note, it is great to see eye proprioception, a relatively “nerdy” topic, featuring in the main-stream media. Also nice to have a Plan B for the lab, just in case the TMS machine stops working 🙂

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