Talk by Martin Rolfs (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Martin Rolfs from the Humboldt University of Berlin will be visiting our group on April 14. He will give a public talk on “Attention in Active Vision” (1.30pm, MPI-INF, room 021).


We take in the visual world by moving our eyes, heads, and bodies. While this crucial recognition is at the heart of today’s research on active vision, we only begin to understand the consequences of our actions for perception and cognition. In this talk, I will present a series of studies investigating how the preparation and execution of saccadic eye movements affects the selective allocation of visual attention for functions as fundamental as visual perception and memory. First, saccade preparation drives both objective visual performance and subjective experience of visual salience at the target of saccades. Second, visual attention supports perceptual continuity across saccades by facilitating perception predictively at those retinal locations that become relevant after the eye movement. Third, saccadic eye movements strongly affect what is encoded and maintained in visual short-term memory. These findings reveal a tight coupling between eye movement preparation and the visual system’s priorities for perception and memory. They highlight the key role that eye movements play in shaping what we see and what we ignore, what we remember and what we forget.


Martin Rolfs studied Psychology at the University of Potsdam, where he completed his PhD on the generation of miniature eye movements in 2007 (supervised by Prof. Reinhold Kliegl). In 2008, he accepted a postdoc position in Prof. Patrick Cavanagh’s new lab at the Université Paris Descartes. Together they worked on the continuity of perception during active vision. Two years later, Martin Rolfs was awared a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship from the European Commission to join Prof. Marisa Carrasco’s lab at New York University and, in the return phase, Dr. Eric Castet’s lab at the Université Aix-Marseille. Since October 2012, Martin Rolfs attracted funding from the Emmy Noether program of the German Research Foundation (DFG), allowing him to establish an independent research group at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience at the Humboldt University of Berlin ( Embedded in a number of international collaborations (with New York, Paris, Michigan, Marseille, Munich, Sydney), his group assesses the architecture and plasticity of perceptual processes in active vision, using eye tracking, motion tracking, psychophysics, computational modeling, EEG, and studies of clinical populations. Current research interests span attention, perceptual awareness, visual memory, sensorimotor learning, and the perception of animacy.