Category: News

(expired) 2 Postdoc positions in the Reach & Touch Lab (in the new Bielefeld-based Biopsychology group)

I am looking for 2 Postdocs to join my new lab in Bielefeld, the Biopsychology & Cognitive Neuroscience group of the Psychology Department.

I will be interviewing as soon as possible after the deadline (July 29, 2016).

The group investigates sensorimotor and multisensory transformation and integration, with a focus on tactile processing and its relationship with movement (check out the remaining website, http://reachtouchlab.com). Available research methods will be motion tracking, EEG, TMS, EMG, 3T fMRI, and a two-armed Kinarm. Besides the focus on touch and sensorimotor processing, the group will investigate developmental aspects of these topics in infants and children. At the University of Bielefeld, there are multiple possibilities for collaboration for additional psychological/neuroscientific methods. The positions are university-funded (3 years, additional 3 years possible) and include teaching. They should start in October 2016. There’s a multitude of possibilities for research, and your ideas matter.

Apply by July 29!

Not sure whether you should apply? Get in touch with your questions via Email (tobias.heed@uni-hamburg.de) or Twitter (@TobiasHeed) to arrange a phone call if you can’t reach me by phone directly.

 

Postdoc positions

Note: this is not the official advertisement. Please find it here (in German). English applications are fine, non-German applications are welcome.

 

Job description

The jobholder will plan, execute, analyze, and publish research studies in the lab, using (some of) the above listed methods. This includes the organization and scientific administration of projects and potentially the co-supervision of PhD students. (75%)

The position includes teaching of 2 student courses per semester (4 “Lehrveranstaltungsstunden (LVS)”). (20%)

It is expected that the jobholder takes part in the academic self-administration. (5%)

The development of an own research focus, including acquisition of third party funding, is encouraged. It is possible to habilitate on the position.

Job specification

Necessary qualifications, knowledge, and competences

  • PhD in Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, or a comparable degree in a related field
  • Practical experience with experiments in at least 2 of the above-mentioned scientific research methods, demonstrated through corresponding publications
  • Very good programming skills for experimental acquisition and analysis (e.g. Presentation, Python, Matlab, R), and the willingness to acquire further such skills if required
  • Very good statistical knowledge
  • Very good English skills and experience with publishing in English
  • Independent and thorough working style
  • The group will be practicing Open Science; it will be expected that the jobholder documents and publishes data and scripts.

Desirable qualifications, knowledge, and competences

  • Knowledge of Bayesian statistics
  • PhD topic in the area of sensorimotor processing or sensorimotor development
  • Experience with motion tracking or Kinarm
  • Teaching experience
  • Experience with supervising students (theses, student assistants, PhDs)

Please submit your application preferably as one single pdf file that contains all relevant content (motivation letter, CV, copies of relevant certificates, job reference letters if applicable). Please list two references from an academic background whom I may contact during the application process.

 

The Reach & Touch Lab commits to Open Science

We’ve just published a commitment to Open Science as a disclaimer about how we intend to publish our work, starting today.

It has been becoming increasingly clear that scientific practices in Psychology and Neuroscience will have to undergo important changes towards “Open Science”. Maybe inspired most by the Science publication on the difficulty to replicate many Psychology findings by the Open Science Collaboration in 2015, discussions and suggestions abound in social media and on the internet.

Some of the most salient points in current discussions are:

  • the need for a general commitment of the research community to communicate and share original data, analysis methods, and programming scripts
  • the need for scientists to truthfully report hypotheses, null findings, and failures
  • publish in ways that make papers freely accessible

We’ve discussed Open Science practices in the lab over the last months. We’ve compared our current research and publication practices with those that might be most adequate in view of good scientific conduct, and evaluated what steps we will have to take to make the necessary changes.

The result of these discussions is our Open Science Commitment, which we have made available on our webpage today, to which I personally commit as the principal investigator of the lab, and to which the members of my group have agreed to commit to as well.

Some comments and explanations

One thing that became quite clear in our discussions is that a commitment to Open Science might seem clear and easy in theory and debate, but does not as easily translate into a realistically manageable day-to-day lab practice. As a consequence, we have formulated a commitment which we think we can actually keep. Below, I’ll give a few explaining comments.

We hope that other labs will implement their own Open Science principles, and we are open to discussion about our own!

About data sharing

Some initiatives demand that everyone share their raw data. Whereas this is relatively straightforward for many behavioral data such as reaction times and response choices, it seems much less straightforward for experiments involving motion tracking, EEG, or fMRI. Such data typically contain many segments of unusable data, complex coding of experimental conditions, and are initially stored in formats that might not be readable by every analysis software. Anyone who has ever tried to analyze such a data set that they did not acquire themselves (we have!) knows that reconstructing the coding of conditions, unusable segments of data, etc. can take weeks, even if the data are documented.

We have therefore specified to share the data necessary to replicate the analyses we report. As an example, for an EEG experiment, this might be the data of the trials we retained after semi-automatic artifact rejection.

In addition, we realized that preparing scripts for sharing can be a daunting task, especially for analysis-intensive experiments such as those involving EEG and fMRI. We’re not professional coders and handling code is a late-acquired skill for almost all of us. There’s a simple fear that others will criticize our code as inefficient, amateur-like, or even wrong.

Accordingly, the lab statement talks not only about sharing, but also commits to teaching everyone in the lab how to code cleanly, comment code, etc. We also provide written workflows that specify how a study should be conducted, so that making it open will hopefully require as little effort as possible. Ultimately, Open Science will hopefully be a part of our culture and simply “the way we do things here”.

About collaborations

We discussed whether future collaborations should be contingent on a commitment to Open Science also by the collaborator, or else be abandoned. We reckon that this might not be a smart move at the moment, as we don’t know what kind of principles and rules other researchers might have to comply with at their institutions. Accordingly, we have committed to actively discuss our principles at the beginning of new collaborations.

About publishing

This was a tough point. In the current research world, publishing in expensive for-profit journals is usually important to advance a science career (most evidently so for untenured researchers, but also for tenured ones). To put it bluntly, everyone talks positively about the new Open Access (OA) journals, but the best research is mostly still sent to the old, closed access (or expensive OA fee) journals.

Therefore, committing to publishing exclusively Open Access seemed unrealistic in the current career climate. There are some OA journals we do not want to use as output for our research; and we object to paying the excessive OA fees many closed access journals take for making papers OA. So we will use preprint servers to publish our research OA, even if some of our publications will be submitted to closed access journals.

About peer review

There is currently a lot of chatter about the Peer Reviewer Openness Initiative. Signers of this initiative vow to review papers only if the corresponding data and scripts are publicly available, starting 2017. Though I find the aim of the initiative great, I have not signed, as I cannot justify asking of others what I have not fully implemented in my own lab. Accordingly, I will sign the initiative when we’ve fully transitioned to being an Open Science lab.

About getting better…

As is evident from the above comments, we could be more extreme in some of the stances we take. Instead, we chose to start with what we believe we can currently fulfill. But as the last point of our commitment, we have added that we will continue to strive to become better. Step by step.

Comments to this post are open — we’re curious to hear your opinions.

José Ossandón joins the Reach & Touch Lab

We welcome José Ossandón, who joins the Reach and Touch Lab as a PostDoc today!

José just finished his PhD in the lab of Peter König at the University of Osnabrück and is an expert in eye movement research, with methodological expertise in modeling and EEG analysis (see his page for CV and publications).

José’s work will focus on the relationship of saccade behavior and tactile spatial perception. Among other things, he will combine EEG and TMS to investigate brain connectivity while participants freely view visual scenes.

The position is funded by the Collaborative Research Center 936 ‘Multi-site communication in the brain’.

Poster at SfN 2015: Mislocalizing touch from hands to feet

Tobias will be attending SfN, which is taking place in Chicago starting this upcoming Saturday.
He’ll present a poster at location O15 on Wednesday morning on a study by Steph Badde and himself. In this study, we demonstrate that participants often grossly misperceive where tactile stimuli occurred. For example, when we stimulate their left hand, they may report that the touch occurred on their right foot.
Tactile location is initially coded in primary somatosensory cortex, where activity arises in the sensory homunculus at the location that receives input from the periphery. Our results show that the stimulus location we perceive in the end can be vastly different from what would be expected from this initial homuncular representation. Furthermore, we show how this misperception is determined by several anatomical and spatial factors.

Come and see our poster on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 8-12 at poster slot O15! (Also see in the SfN Meeting Planner)

New paper on tactile decision making: Brandes & Heed (J Neurosci)

New paper:
Brandes, J. & Heed, T. (2015). Reach Trajectories Characterize Tactile Localization for Sensorimotor Decision Making, Journal of Neuroscience 35(40): 13648-13658; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1873-14.2015

I’m very happy that this paper is now out. It is the first paper of Janina’s PhD work. She spent a ton of time to optimize the experimental paradigm and, even more so, the analysis.

The research question

Imagine you feel an itch on your foot and want to scratch it. Where your hand has to go depends on where you’ve placed your foot. The brain merges body posture and the skin location of the itch so that your hand goes to the right place.
But how exactly the brain localizes the touch is debated. The origin of the debate are results from experiments with crossed limbs. In a number of tasks involving touch, people are much worse with crossed than with uncrossed hands.
When you cross your hands, your right hand (that is, the skin location) lies in left space. So the two pieces of information – skin and space – are in conflict. But what does that tell us about how the brain actually processes touch location?
One hypothesis is that hand crossing makes it difficult for the brain to compute the touch location in space. According to this idea, the skin location is known fast, but (with crossed limbs) the spatial location becomes available late. Another hypothesis is that the computation is actually not at all difficult. Rather, the brain remembers the skin location, and integrates skin and spatial locations. With crossed hands, the two are in conflict (right vs. left), and this conflict must be resolved. Our experiment sought to dissociate these two accounts.

What we show

In our experiment, participants received a touch on their crossed feet, and they had to reach to the touched location. If only skin location was available at first then people should initially reach to the wrong foot, because the skin location is opposite to the foot’s actual spatial location (Hypothesis 1).
In contrast, if the brain computes the spatial location fast but then tries to resolve the conflict then people should take a while to reach (longer than when the feet are not crossed and there isn’t any conflict), but the reach should go directly to the correct location (Hypothesis 2).
The second option is basically what we found. Overall, it’s not quite that simple so read about the details in the paper…

Why the results are important

We show that the transformation from skin location to the 3D location in space is not difficult. With this finding, we refute a common idea about how touch is located.
We demonstrate experimentally that the brain integrates information from different kinds of spatial representations to localize touch. We already had found modeling evidence for this in a study by Steph Badde (recently came out, see here), and had also presented this hypothesis in our recent TiCS paper. Finally, our results provide a direct link from spatial integration in touch to decision making models such as drift diffusion models (more on that in the paper!).

Great news: DAAD is funding 3-month visit by Daniel Marigold from Canada

Daniel Marigold is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology at the Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. His research focuses on the role of vision for walking. One of his main interests is how parietal cortex organizes movements of different effectors, a topic we’ve addressed in the Reach & Touch Lab (see publications by Leoné et al. 2014 and Heed et al. 2011), and that Phyllis Mania is currently pursuing as part of the Emmy Noether group’s work package.

The DAAD is funding Dan to visit the Reach & Touch Lab for 3 months in 2016. We’re planning a TMS project in which we will test the relevance of parietal cortex for hand and foot motor planning. Better yet, Dan won’t be coming alone, but will be joined by Dr. Kim Lajoie, a member of his lab with a background in neuronal recording in the parietal cortex of cats.

We’re looking forward to Dan and Kim’s stay!

Steph Badde has left to go to NY

Steph Badde, who received her PhD from the Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology lab, and worked as a PostDoc here since, is starting a PostDoc with Michael Landy in August. She’s packed her bags and gone off to NY.

We’re sad to let her go! And wish her exciting times in the States.

We are offering BSc thesis topics on tactile perception in babies for 1 or 2 BSc students

We are looking for 1 or 2 Bachelor students for a BSC thesis project.

When can babies feel touch? And how does their knowledge about their own body develop? When can a baby guide its hand toward a body part that has been touched?

We are assessing the ability of 3-7 month-old babies to respond to tactile stimulation on different body parts. The task at hand is to systematize and categorize the babies’ behavior. This requires the qualitative description and the quantitative coding of behavior that has been recorded on video.

The thesis can start immediately.

Contact: Tobias Heed

Steph Badde awarded Best Dissertation Prize by the DGPs’s General Psychology section

For the competition, the 10 best dissertations of the last 2 years are pre-selected by a panel of reviewers. The PhDs (actually, now postdocs) then present their work at a meeting that is usually held in the place the last winner came from, and prizes are awarded to the 3 selected as best by a local committee.

Steph presented the work from her dissertation, “Top-down and bottom-up influences on tactile localization and remapping”, and received the first prize.

Congratulations!

Steph is currently a postdoc in the lab of Brigitte Röder and collaborates with the Reach & Touch Lab.

Jonathan Schubert talks at IMRF

Jonathan Schubert will give a talk at this year’s International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF), which is taking place in Pisa, Italy from June 13th to 16th. The title of the talk is “Flexible use of spatial reference frames for touch in sighted and congenitally blind individuals” and highlights new insights into the use of anatomical and external reference frames in touch localization. The talk is scheduled for 3.30 pm on Sunday, the 14th. Make sure to drop by if you’re at the conference!