Marmosets have recently attracted interest as a model for visual neuroscience. Their visual areas are highly similar to larger primates, but have the distinct advantage that most cortical areas (MT, FEF, etc) are easily accessible at the surface. Currently, I conduct research in Dr. Jude Mitchell’s lab, which has had recent success in the study of marmoset visual behavior, including active visual search and tracking in natural contexts(1). During my first year of graduate work, I contributed towards training head-fixed marmosets to perform visual tasks under tightly controlled conditions to assess their visual acuity(2).
More recently, I have examined the feasibility of training marmosets to perform a constrained spatial attention task. We found a successful cueing paradigm to characterize the peripheral read out of a target motion direction before a saccade based on pursuit eye movements(3).
For my graduate thesis work, I aim to investigate the neural mechanisms of pre-saccadic selection in marmoset area MT using both foraging and cued saccade paradigms. Using the advantage of the marmoset’s smooth cortex, I plan to use laminar arrays to dissect pre-saccadic activity by cortical layer in area MT. Furthermore, I intend to further examine the circuity underlying pre-saccadic selection using optogenetics to dissect feedback connections from MT to V1.
Humans are social species with complex social hierarchies that drive an array of behaviors important to interpersonal interactions. Gaze direction is an important social cue used to establish joint attention and coordinate group behavior in complex primate hierarchies. Gaze following is a naturally evoked behavior among marmoset societies in many natural contexts, including orienting towards predators in group mobbing or targeting food during foraging. I am specifically interested in studying the neural mechanisms that control both eye movements and social behaviors, such as gaze following and attention at the graduate level and beyond.