Themes of study

Research conducted on the functional representation of space highlights the existence of different neural networks for the manual action space (peripersonal space) and for the whole-body navigation space (extrapersonal space). We study the neural bases of peripersonal space representation and its role in the cognitive mechanisms underlying perceptual categorization, symbolic processing and social interactions. In the general framework of embodied cognition theories, we also aim at specifying the complex relations between action and object representations. Finally, we examine the neural and psychophysiological bases of communicative and object-directed actions.

We could not fully process all of the visual information available at once. Instead, vision relies on actively selecting and prioritizing parts of the visual field. This active vision can be nicely evidenced in the laboratory by studying visual crowding, in which the visual perception of a target object in peripheral vision is affected by the presence of nearby distractors. Research on ocular motor behaviors, and in particular saccadic eye movements, is also of importance for unraveling the functional approach of vision. Saccades are characterized by a great plasticity that is studied in the context of reinforcement learning.

The functional approach of motor control stands on the hypothesis that motor behaviors are regulated by bio-mechanical constraints but also by the cognitive ability to select and simulate specific goals in order to optimize performance. We examine the interactions between vision, posture, and cognition through models of upright balance regulation in the context of various visual tasks. Moreover, we propose to further develop a theoretical model of motor control that integrates temporal dynamics in internal loops. Mechanisms of cognitive control are also deeply studied to better understand decision-making and error regulation in motor responses.

Theories of learning assume that the functional organization of the environment is critical for learning new behaviors. Our research aims at clarifying the conditions under which organisms may use relations between events in order to draw a formal description of the mechanisms underlying learning. One of our main scientific challenges is to highlight the variables involved in the development of novel behaviors. We also study the relative effect of reinforcement contingencies, instructions and experimenter expectations.