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Dr. Michael Barnett-Cowan

E-Mail: mbarnettcowan[at]gmail.com

 

Bild von Barnett-Cowan, Michael, Dr.

Michael Barnett-Cowan

Position: Projektleiter  Abteilung: Alumni Bülthoff

NEWS! I have moved to The Brain and Mind Institute at Western University (formally The University of Western Ontario) in London, Ontario, Canada. Please visit my new website for latest updates and publications.


While at the MPI I led the Cybernetics Approach to Perception and Action (CAPA) research group and was project leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Simulation of Upset Recovery in Aviation (SUPRA) F7 EU Research Grant. My main research interests concern how information from different senses affect the perception of space and time. I am specifically interested in the vestibular (balance) system and how information about head movement is combined with sensory information from the visual and kinesthetic systems.

 

Combining psychophysical, computational modeling and neuroimaging techniques I measure perceived spatial orientation in complex multisensory environments. This approach identifies the relative influence of vestibular, visual and kinesthetic cues that underlie spatial perception. Working with differently abled populations, this research program is dedicated to determine how different neural circuits in the normal, ageing and diseased brain analyze multisensory information, generate perceptions of the external world, make decisions, and execute movements. The ultimate goal of this research is to identify sensitive markers of disease and test the effectiveness of therapeutic and rehabilitation efforts to combat disorientation.


I also use psychophysical and neuroimaging techniques to measure perceived timing of multisensory events. Converging evidence from different experiments on the perceived timing of vestibular stimulation suggests that vestibular perception is slow compared to the other senses. This result is surprising considering the speed with which the vestibular system detects and responds to self-motion and may have practical applications in calibrating virtual reality environments and vestibular prostheses.

Vestibular perception is slow

Involuntary physical responses to vestibular stimulation are very fast. The vestibulo-ocular reflex, for example, occurs approximately 20ms after the onset of vestibular stimulation (Lorente de No, 1933). Surprisingly, despite these fast responses, reaction time (RT) to the perceived onset of vestibular stimulation occurs as late as 438ms after galvanic vestibular stimulation, which is approximately 220ms later than RTs to visual, somatosensory and auditory stimuli (Barnett-Cowan & Harris, 2009). Here we investigate why vestibular perception is slow. An initial investigation tested the hypothesis that RTs to natural vestibular stimulation (as opposed to galvanic vestibular stimulation) are also slow. Participants were passively moved forwards using the Stewart motion platform and were asked to press a button relative to the onset of physical motion. RTs to auditory and visual stimuli were also collected. RTs to physical motion occurred significantly later (about 100ms) than RTs to auditory and visual stimuli. Event related potentials (ERPs) were simultaneously recorded where the onset of the vestibular-ERP in both RT and non-RT trials occurred about 200ms or more after stimulus onset while the onset of the auditory- and visual-ERPs occurred less than 100ms after stimulus onset. All stimuli ERPs occurred approximately 135ms prior to RTs. These results provide further evidence that vestibular perception is slow compared to the other senses and that this perceptual latency may be related to latent cortical responses to physical motion. The next phase of our investigations will assess reaction time and ERP responses to passive motion while manipulating peak velocity, acceleration and jerk. Perceived simultaneity of passive motion paired with moving visual stimuli will also be assessed.

 

REFERENCES:

Lorente de No R (1933) Vestibulo-ocular reflex arc. Arch Neurol Psychiat 30:245–291

 

Barnett-Cowan, M. and L. R. Harris: Perceived timing of vestibular stimulation relative to touch, light and sound. Experimental Brain Research 198(2-3), 221-231

 

Barnett-Cowan, M., H. Nolan, J. S. Butler, J. J. Foxe, R. B. Reilly and H. H. Bülthoff: Reaction time and event-related potentials to visual, auditory and vestibular stimuli. Vision Sciences Society 2010

 

Principle Investigator: Michael Barnett-Cowan

Collaborators: John Butler, Hugh Nolan, Heinrich Bülthoff

Facilities: RoboLab, MotionLab

 

Perceived object stability

Knowing an object’s physical stability affects our expectations about its behaviour and our interactions with it. Objects topple over when the gravity-projected centre-of-mass (COM) lies outside the support area. The critical angle (CA) is the orientation for which an object is perceived to be equally likely to topple over or right itself, which is influenced by global shape information about an object‘s COM and its orientation relative to gravity. When observers lie on their sides, the perceived direction of gravity is tilted towards the body. Here we investigate the contribution of the orientation of the body when estimating the stability of objects. Our initial investigation tested the hypothesis that the CA of falling objects is affected by the internal representation of gravity rather than the direction of physical gravity. Observers sat upright or lay left- or right-side-down, and observed images of objects with different 3D mass distributions that were placed close to the right edge of a table in various orientations. Observers indicated whether the objects were more likely to fall back onto or off the table. The subjective visual vertical was also tested as a measure of perceived gravity. Our results show the CA increases when lying right-side-down and decreases when left-side-down relative to an upright posture, consistent with estimating the stability of rightward falling objects as relative to perceived and not physical gravity. The next phase of our investigations will assess the extent to which physical and perceived gravity affect the CA in the absence of visual orientation cues and when the body is put in multiple orientations relative to gravity using the MPI Cyber Motion Simulator.

 

REFERENCES:

Barnett-Cowan M, Fleming RW, Singh M & Bülthoff HH (2011) Perceived object stability depends on multisensory estimates of gravity. PloS ONE 6(4): e19289

 

Principle Investigator: Michael Barnett-Cowan

Collaborators: Roland Fleming, Manish Singh, Heinrich Bülthoff

Facilities: RoboLab

 

Shape from shading

In environments where orientation is ambiguous, the visual system uses prior knowledge about lighting coming from above to recognize objects, reorient the body, and determine which way is up (where is the sun?). It has been shown that when observers are tilted to the side relative to gravity, the orientation of the light-from-above prior will change in a direction between the orientation of the body, gravity and the visual surround. Here we investigate the contribution of ocular torsion in this change of the light-from-above prior has been acknowledged but not specifically addressed. Our initial investigation tested the hypothesis that when lighting direction is the only available visual orientation cue, change in orientation of the light-from-above prior is accounted for by ocular torsion. In this experiment observers made convex-concave judgments of a central shaded disk, flanked by three similarly- and three oppositely-shaded disks. Lighting was tested every 15° in roll in the fronto-parallel plane. Using the MPI Cyber Motion Simulator to move observers into different orientations, observers were tested when upright, supine, and tilted every 30 ° in role relative to gravity. Our results show that change of the light-from-above prior is well predicted from a sum of two sines; one consistent with predicted ocular torsion, the other consistent with an additional component varying with twice the frequency of body tilt. The next phase of our investigations will address the nature of this second component as well as assess the relative contribution of additional lighting cues added to the surrounding environment.

 

REFERENCES:

Barnett-Cowan, M., M. O. Ernst and H. H. Bülthoff: “Where is the sun?” The sun is ‘up’ in the eye of the beholder. European Conference on Visual Perception 2010

 

Principle Investigator: Michael Barnett-Cowan

Collaborators: Marc Ernst, Heinrich Bülthoff

Facilities: RoboLab

 

Three Dimensional Path Integration

Path integration is a process in which self-motion is integrated over time to obtain an estimate of one’s current position relative to a starting point. Humans can do path integration based exclusively on visual, auditory, or inertial cues. However, with multiple cues present, inertial cues - particularly kinaesthetic - seem to dominate. Extensive work has been done on evaluating path integration in the horizontal plane, but little is known about vertical movement. One reason for this is that traditional motion simulators have a small range of motion restricted mainly to the horizontal plane. Here we take advantage of a motion simulator with a large range of motion to assess whether path integration is similar between horizontal and vertical planes. Using the MPI Cyber Motion Simulator, we have found that observers were more likely to underestimate angle size for movement in the horizontal plane compared to the vertical planes. In the frontal plane observers were more likely to overestimate angle size while there was no such bias in the sagittal plane. Finally, observers responded slower when answering based on vestibular-kinaesthetic information alone (Barnett-Cowan et al., 2010; In Press). These results suggest that the neural representation of self-motion through space is non-symmetrical which may relate to the fact that humans experience movement mostly within the horizontal plane.

 

REFERENCES:

Barnett-Cowan M, Meilinger T, Vidal M & Bülthoff HH (2010) Path navigation in the third dimension. Journal of Vestibular Research 20: 282:283

 

Barnett-Cowan M, Meilinger T, Vidal M, Teufel H & Bülthoff HH (In Press) MPI CyberMotion Simulator: Implementation of a novel motion simulator to investigate path integration in three dimensions. Journal of Visualized Experiments

 

Principle Investigator: Michael Barnett-Cowan

Collaborators: Tobias Meilinger, Manuel Vidal, Heinrich Bülthoff

Facilities: RoboLab


The Investigation of Perceptual Thresholds

We want to determine how to move people without having them perceive it, because this would help us to drive our simulator into a neutral position without the pilot noticing it. An open question is how perceptual thresholds actually depend on the specific motion profile. Using the MPI Cyber Motion Simulator, we are investigating how the rate of change of acceleration, called jerk, influences perceptual thresholds and the perceived onset of self-motion.


Principle Investigator: Florian Soyka

Collaborators: Paolo Robulfo-Giordano, Heinrich Bülthoff

Facilities: RoboLab

 

The Integration of Visual and Vestibular Sensory Information

In collaboration with scientists from TNO, Soesterberg (Netherlands) we investigated if humans integrate visual and vestibular information in a statistically optimal fashion when discriminating rotational self-motion stimuli. Participants were consecutively rotated twice (2s sinusoidal acceleration) on a chair about an earth-vertical axis in vestibular-only, visual-only and visual-vestibular trials. The task was to report which rotation was perceived as faster and just-noticeable differences (JND) were estimated by fitting psychometric functions. Predictions for the visual-vestibular JNDs were calculated based on the unisensory JND measurements and optimal integration theory.

The visual-vestibular JND measurements are too high compared to the predictions and there is no JND reduction between visual-vestibular and visual-alone estimates. These findings may be explained by visual capture. Alternatively, the visual precision may not be equal between visual-vestibular and visual-alone conditions, since it has been shown that visual motion sensitivity is reduced during inertial self-motion. Therefore, measuring visual-alone JNDs with an underlying uncorrelated inertial motion might yield higher visual-alone JNDs compared to the stationary measurement. Theoretical calculations show that higher visual-alone JNDs would result in predictions consistent with the JND measurements for the visual-vestibular condition.

 

REFERENCES:

Soyka F, de Winkel K, Barnett-Cowan M, Groen E, Bülthoff HH (2011) Integration of visual and vestibular information used to discriminate rotational self-motion, 12th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2011), Fukuoka, Japan, i-Perception, 2(8) 855.

de Winkel K, Soyka F, Barnett-Cowan M, Groen E, Bülthoff HH (2011) Multisensory integration in the perception of self-motion about an Earth-vertical yaw axis, 34th European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP 2011), Toulouse, France, Perception, 40(ECVP Abstract Supplement) 183.

Principle Investigator: Florian Soyka

Collaborators: Ksander De Winkle, Eric Groen,  Heinrich Bülthoff

Facilities: TNO

 

Roll rate thresholds and perceived realism in driving simulation

Active driving simulation provides a variety of visual and vestibular cues as well as demands on attention which vary with task difficulty. It is thus important to measure vestibular perceptual thresholds in conditions that closely resemble typical driving simulation to determine how different sensory and cognitive factors contribute to the sensation of realistic driving. Knowing the relative contribution of these components will lead to more optimized simulated driving.

 

Principle Investigator: Paolo Pretto

Collaborators: Alessandro Nesti, Heinrich Bülthoff

Facilities: RoboLab

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Artikel (18):

Nesti A Person, Beykirch KA Person, MacNeilage PR Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person und Bülthoff HH Person (April-2014) The importance of stimulus noise analysis for self-motion studies PLoS ONE 9(4) 1-8.
Nesti A Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, MacNeilage PR Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Januar-2014) Human sensitivity to vertical self-motion Experimental Brain Research 232(1) 303-314.
Soyka F Person, de Winkel KN Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, Bülthoff HH Person, Groen EL und Werkhoven PJ (November-2013) Integration of visual and inertial cues in the perception of angular self-motion Experimental Brain Research 231(2) 209-218.
Barnett-Cowan M Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Oktober-2013) Human path navigation in a three-dimensional world Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36(5) 544-545.
Soyka F Person, Bülthoff HH Person und Barnett-Cowan M Person (Juli-2013) Temporal processing of self-motion: modeling reaction times for rotations and translations Experimental Brain Research 228(1) 51-62.
Soyka F Person, Robuffo Giordano P Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Juli-2012) Modeling direction discrimination thresholds for yaw rotations around an earth-vertical axis for arbitrary motion profiles Experimental Brain Research 220(1) 89-99.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Raeder SM Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Juli-2012) Persistent perceptual delay for head movement onset relative to auditory stimuli of different durations and rise times Experimental Brain Research 220(1) 41-50.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Meilinger T Person, Vidal M Person, Teufel H Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Mai-2012) MPI CyberMotion Simulator: Implementation of a Novel Motion Simulator to Investigate Multisensory Path Integration in Three Dimensions Journal of Visualized Experiments 63(5) 1-6.
Barnett-Cowan M Person und Harris LR (September-2011) Temporal processing of active and passive head movement Experimental Brain Research 214(1) 27-35.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Fleming RW Person, Singh M und Bülthoff HH Person (April-2011) Perceived Object Stability Depends on Multisensory Estimates of Gravity PLoS ONE 6(4) 1-5.
Barnett-Cowan M Person (Dezember-2010) An illusion you can sink your teeth into: Haptic cues modulate the perceived freshness and crispness of pretzels Perception 39(12) 1684-1686.
Cadieux ML , Barnett-Cowan M Person und Shore DI (Juli-2010) Crossing the hands is more confusing for females than males Experimental Brain Research 204(3) 431-446.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Dyde RT , Fox S , Moro E , Hutchison WD und Harris LR (Juni-2010) Multisensory determinants of orientation perception in Parkinson's disease Neuroscience 167(4) 1138-1150.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Dyde RT , Thompson C Person und Harris LR (Juni-2010) Multisensory determinants of orientation perception: task specific sex differences European Journal of Neuroscience 31(10) 1899-1907.
Barnett-Cowan M Person und Harris LR (September-2009) Perceived timing of vestibular stimulation relative to touch, light and sound Experimental Brain Research 198(2-3) 221-231.
Barnett-Cowan M Person und Harris LR (November-2008) Perceived self-orientation in allocentric and egocentric space: effects of visual and physical tilt on saccadic and tactile measures Brain Research 1242 231-243.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Dyde RT und Harris LR (März-2005) Is an internal model of head orientation necessary for oculomotor control? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1039 314-324.
Barnett-Cowan M Person und Peters M (Juli-2004) Does handedness influence the strength of phantom limb illusions in the virtual reality box? Brain and Cognition 55(2) 275-276.

Beiträge zu Tagungsbänden (1):

Nesti A Person, Masone C Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, Robuffo Giordano P Person, Bülthoff HH Person und Pretto P Person (September-2012) Roll rate thresholds and perceived realism in driving simulation Driving Simulation Conference Europe (DSC 2012), INRETS, Bron, France, 1-6.
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Beiträge zu Büchern (2):

Barnett-Cowan M Person: A Neglected Sense, -. In: The Multisensory Mind, (Ed) D. I. Shore, McMaster University Press, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, (2010).
Barnett-Cowan M Person: Where's your head at?, 24-24. In: The Multisensory Mind, (Ed) D. I. Shore, McMaster University Press, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, (Februar-2009).

Technische Berichte (3):

Barnett-Cowan M Person, Soyka F Person, Zaichik L , Groen E , Ledegang W und de Mena M : Analysis of perception data and motion perception criteria, SUPRA D4.2, 7th Framework Program EU IP 233543: Simulation of UPset Recovery in Aviation, (2011).
Beykirch K Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, Zaichik L , Bos J und Ledegang W : Development of add-on perception model, SUPRA D4.3, 7th Framework Program EU IP 233543: Simulation of UPset Recovery in Aviation, (2011).
Beykirch M Person, Soyka F Person und Barnett-Cowan M Person: Evaluation of the baseline perception models and required amendments, SUPRA D4.1, 7th Framework Program EU IP 233543: Simulation of UPset Recovery in Aviation, (2011).

Poster (32):

Horr NK , Di Luca M Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person und Ernst M Person (Juni-12-2014): The shape of things to come: temporal recalibration changes responses to unisensory stimuli, 15th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2014), Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Nesti A Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, Bülthoff HH Person und Pretto P Person (Juni-21-2012): Roll rate thresholds in driving simulation, 13th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2012), Oxford, UK, Seeing and Perceiving, 25(0) 167.
Raeder S Person, Bülthoff HH Person und Barnett-Cowan M Person (Juni-19-2012): Persistent perceptual delay for head movement onset relative to auditory stimuli of different duration and rise times, 13th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2012), Oxford, UK, Seeing and Perceiving, 25(0) 32.
Nesti A Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, MacNeilage P Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Januar-2012): Differential Thresholds for Vertical Motion, 22nd Okulomotoriktreffen Zürich-München (ZüMü 2012), Zürich, Switzerland.
Soyka F Person, Robuffo Giordano P Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Januar-2012): Reaction Times for Self-Motion Detection, 22nd Okulomotoriktreffen Zürich-München (ZüMü 2012), Zürich, Switzerland.
Soyka F Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, Robuffo Giordano P Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Oktober-2011): Integration of Translational and Rotational Vestibular Cues for Direction Detection during Eccentric Rotations, 12th Conference of Junior Neuroscientists of Tübingen (NeNA 2011), Heiligkreuztal, Germany.
Soyka F Person, de Winkel K Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, Groen E Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Oktober-2011): Integration of visual and vestibular information used to discriminate rotational self-motion, 12th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2011), Fukuoka, Japan, i-Perception, 2(8) 855.
de Winkel K Person, Soyka F Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person, Groen E und Bülthoff HH Person (September-2011): Multisensory integration in the perception of self-motion about an Earth-vertical yaw axis, 34th European Conference on Visual Perception, Toulouse, France, Perception, 40(ECVP Abstract Supplement) 183.
Di Luca M Person, Machulla T Person, Barnett-Cowan M Person und Ernst MO Person (September-2011): Recalibration of audiovisual simultaneity, Bernstein Cluster D Symposium: Multisensory Perception and Action, Tübingen, Germany.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Ernst MO Person und Bülthoff HH Person (August-2010): "Where is the sun?": The sun is "up" in the eye of the beholder, 33rd European Conference on Visual Perception, Lausanne, Switzerland, Perception, 39(ECVP Abstract Supplement) 146.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Meilinger T Person, Vidal M Person und Bülthoff HH Person (August-2010): Path integration in the third dimension, XXVI Bárány Society Meeting, Reykjavik, Iceland, Journal of Vestibular Research, 20(3-4) 282.
Di Luca M Person und Barnett-Cowan M Person (August-2010): Recalibration of audiovisual simultaneity changes detection threshold to sound but not to light, 33rd European Conference on Visual Perception, Lausanne, Switzerland, Perception, 39(ECVP Abstract Supplement) 187.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Ernst MO Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Juni-2010): Change of the "light-from-above" prior when the body is tilted relative to gravity, 11th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2010), Liverpool, UK.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Nolan H , Butler JS Person, Foxe JJ , Reilly RB und Bülthoff HH Person (Juni-2010): Latent reaction time and event-related potentials to passive physical motion, 11th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2010), Liverpool, UK.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Fleming RW Person und Bülthoff HH Person (Juni-2010): Perceived stability of objects changes when the body is tilted relative to gravity, 11th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2010), Liverpool, UK.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Dyde RT , Fox SH , Moro E , Hutchison WD und Harris LR (Juni-2010): The "impaired" internal representation of the body in Parkinson's disease, 11th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2010), Liverpool, UK.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Nolan H , Butler JS Person, Foxe JJ , Reilly RB und Bülthoff HH Person (Mai-2010): Reaction time and event-related potentials to visual, auditory and vestibular stimuli, 10th Annual Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society (VSS 2010), Naples, FL, USA, Journal of Vision, 10(7) 1400.
Cadieux ML , Barnett-Cowan M Person und Shore DI (Juli-2009): Gender and vision in the crossed hands TOJ deficit, 10th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2009), New York, NY, USA.
Barnett-Cowan M Person und Harris LR (Juli-2009): Vestibular perception is slow, 10th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2009), New York, NY, USA.
Cadieux M , Barnett-Cowan M Person und Shore DI (Dezember-2008): Crossed hands and conflicting references frames, 17th Annual Meeting of The Israel Society for Neuroscience, Eilat, Israel.
Barnett-Cowan M Person und Harris LR (Juli-2008): Perception of simultaneity and temporal order of active and passive head movements paired with visual, auditory and tactile stimuli, 9th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2008), Hamburg, Germany.
Balaban DY , Barnett-Cowan M Person, Sanderson J und Harris LR (Juni-2008): Blood pressure response to roll depends on both visual and non-visual factors., 8th Annual Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society (VSS 2008), Naples, FL, USA, Journal of Vision, 8(6) 1064.
Jenkin H , Barnett-Cowan M Person, Dyde RT , Sanderson J , Jenkin M und Harris L (Juni-2008): Left/Right asymmetries in the contribution of body orientation to the perceptual upright, 8th Annual Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society (VSS 2008), Naples, FL, USA, Journal of Vision, 8(6) 1062.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Sanderson J , Dyde RT , Fox SH , Hutchison WD und Harris LR (November-2007): The subjective visual vertical and the perceptual upright in Parkinson’s disease, 37th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (Neuroscience 2007), San Diego, CA, USA.
Jenkin H , Barnett-Cowan M Person, Islam A , Mazour E , Sanderson J , Dyde RT , Jenkin MR und Harris LR (August-2007): The effect of tilt on the perceptual upright, 30th European Conference on Visual Perception, Arezzo, Italy, Perception, 36(ECVP Abstract Supplement) 208.
Barnett-Cowan M Person, Thompson C , Sanderson J , Dyde RT und Harris LR (August-2007): The subjective visual vertical and the perceptual upright in males and females, 30th European Conference on Visual Perception, Arezzo, Italy, Perception, 36(ECVP Abstract Supplement) 206-207.
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Last updated: Dienstag, 18.11.2014