Dr. Sylvia Schroeder

Dr. Sylvia Schröder


Obtained degreeInstitutionSupervisor / LabFocus of work
BSUniversität OsnabrückProf Peter KoenigInfluences of top-down versus bottom-up processes on human visual attention
MSUniversity of Zurich
Prof Kevan Martin
Functional heterogeneity amongst nearby neurons in primary visual cortex
PhDETH Zurich



PositionInstitutionSupervisor / LabFocus of work
Post docUCLProfs Matteo Carandini and Kenneth HarrisImpact of arousal and locomotion on neural activity in the retina and superior colliculus

Talk title: Behaviour affects the first stages of visual processing

Different brain areas have been thought to perform specific, largely non-overlapping functions, such as sensation, decision-making, or motor control. An increasing number of studies shows however that even single neurons exhibit a mixture of functionality, e.g. neurons in primary visual cortex integrate visual information with locomotion speed and arousal. This integration of sensory, behavioural and internal state information may improve the processing of sensory input by adapting the brain to specific demands and contexts.

Behavioural modulation in the visual system has mostly been studied in cortical areas. Here I show that it is evident at even earlier stages of visual processing. We have recorded responses of large populations of neurons in the superior colliculus, which receives input from about 90% of retinal ganglion cells, and of retinal axons projecting to the superior colliculus in mice that were free to run on a treadmill. We found that collicular neurons and their retinal inputs are modulated by running and pupil-linked arousal. To test whether further behavioural variables affect neural activity in the superior colliculus, we have trained mice to perform a visual detection task, where they were rewarded for corrected responses. We found that reward increases neural responses to successive visual stimuli and that this reward effect is independent from effects of pupil-linked arousal.

These results show that several behavioural variables impact visual processing early on in the processing hierarchy. Questions we still need to answer are: what is the purpose of this modulation and how is it achieved?

About Dr. Sylvia Schröder:

The goal of Dr. Sylvia Schröder and her lab is to understand how behaviour influences visual processing in the early visual system including the retina and the superior colliculus. They want to understand how the processing of visual information improves when information about behaviour and internal state is integrated in this processing. Does the integration of vision and behaviour help the animal to make better decisions? Finally, they want to understand which mechanisms underlie the integration of visual and behavioural information in the brain.

Additional info (awards, memberships, extracurricular, etc)

  • Marie Curie Fellow (2014-16)
  • Sir Henry Dale Fellow (2021-25)