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Lab news

New paper

Uncategorised Posted on Fri, April 05, 2024 18:21:11

Gaze and attention: mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effect of optokinetic stimulation in spatial neglect by Chan, Mitchell, Sandilands and Balslev, Neuropsychologia, 2024 (in press)

I am delighted to announce that our paper has just been accepted for publication. The contributions from Hilary Chan and Eilidh Sandilands, who were undergraduate students at the University of St Andrews when they completed this research, deserve a special recognition.

In brief, we investigated how left optokinetic stimulation, which is a rehabilitation method in spatial neglect works. Spatial neglect is a common and disabling neuropsychological condition after a right hemisphere lesion characterised by inattention to people and objects in the contralesional space. Optokinetic stimulation is the exposure to large field visual motion, for instance when watching dots that move in the same direction on a computer screen in the lab (or in real life, when looking out of the window from a moving train). Optokinetic stimulation induces a type of eye movements called optokinetic nystagmus.

We found that in healthy participants optokinetic stimulation altered the proprioceptive (stretch) input from the extraocular muscles. The misperception of own gaze direction was associated with a bias in spatial attention. Both changes outlasted the period of optokinetic stimulation.

We are therefore proposing that the change in the eye position signals underlies the therapeutic effect of optokinetic stimulation. If so, then the effect of left optokinetic stimulation in spatial neglect could be improved by combining it with other interventions that affect eye proprioception, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation over the somatosensory cortex.

I have uploaded our accepted-for-publication manuscript here.

Readvertising: PhD position in cognitive neuroscience/computational modelling with start in September 2024

Uncategorised Posted on Mon, October 16, 2023 19:02:47

We could not fill this position so I am re-advertising the project.

A PhD studentship (competition funding, EASTBIO/BBSRC) is available with start on September 2024. 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.

Cool graffiti

Uncategorised Posted on Thu, September 28, 2023 13:38:13

Extraocular muscles graffiti, on my way to Imaging Excellence Center, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow for a pilot project on the 7T scanner (cortco-subcortical interaction in the control of ocular alignment). No, it wasn’t me, I’m not that talented 🙂

Our paper got the cover illustration :) Check out Human Brain Mapping, Vol 43, Nov 2022

Uncategorised Posted on Tue, November 15, 2022 22:41:31

Proprioceptive coupling between the two eyes. A brief, passive stretch of the right eye’s lateral rectus muscle in humans is associated with an increase in the BOLD response in the left oculomotor and abducens nuclei, which innervate the extraocular muscles of the left eye. In complete darkness the left eye’s active movement mirrors the passive movement of the right eye, suggesting a role of extraocular muscle proprioception in ocular alignment (Cover illustration based on Balslev, Mitchell, Faria, Priba, Macfarlane. Proprioceptive contribution to oculomotor control in humans

New paper

Uncategorised Posted on Tue, August 23, 2022 13:30:32

Proprioceptive contribution to oculomotor control in humans

We have a new paper accepted for publication at Human Brain Mapping. We argue that in humans the afferent input from the extraocular muscles (EOM proprioception) facilitates yoked movements of the two eyes.

Thanks go to my co-authors Jen Macfarlane, Lukasz Priba, Alexandra Mitchell, and Patrick Faria. Shout-out to Patrick who was only a Masters student at the time he completed a very demanding eye-tracking experiment.

The highlights are:

  • A brief, passive stretch of the right eye’s lateral rectus muscle in humans was associated with an increase in the BOLD response in the left oculomotor and abducens nuclei, which innervate the extraocular muscles of the left eye.
  • The left eye’s active movement mirrored the passive movement of the right eye.
  • Both neuroimaging and eye tracking suggest a proprioceptive coupling between the two eyes.

I will add a link to the open-access paper and the publicly available dataset as soon as I get a free moment.

Here is a 3-minute video presentation of this research (presentation at the Annual Conference of the Organisation for Human Brain Mapping in June 2022)

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

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