2013 Davida Teller Award – Eileen Kowler

VSS established the Davida Teller Award in 2013. Davida was an exceptional scientist, mentor and colleague, who for many years led the field of visual development. The award is therefore given to an outstanding woman vision scientist with a strong history of mentoring.

Vision Sciences Society is honored to present Dr. Eileen Kowler with the inaugural Davida Teller Award.

Eileen Kowler

Department of Psychology, Rutgers University

Dr. Eileen Kowler, Professor at Rutgers University, is the inaugural winner of the Davida Teller Award. Eileen transformed the field of eye movement research that eye movements are not reflexive visuomotor responses, but are driven by and tightly linked to attention, prediction, and cognition.

Perhaps the most significant scientific contribution by Eileen was the demonstration that saccadic eye movements and visual perception share attentional resources. This seminal paper has become the starting point for hundreds of subsequent studies about vision and eye movements. By convincingly demonstrating that the preparation of eye movements shares resources with the allocation of visual attention, this paper also established the validity of using eye movements as a powerful tool for investigating the mechanisms of visual attention and perception, which provides a precision and reliability that is otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. This work forms the basis of most of the work on eye movements that is presented at VSS every year!

Before her landmark studies on saccades and attention, Eileen made a major contribution by showing that cognitive expectations exert strong influences on smooth pursuit eye movements. At that time smooth pursuit eye movements were thought to be driven in a machine-like fashion by retinal error signals. Eileen’s wonderfully creative experiments (e.g., pursuit targets moving through Y-shaped tubes) convinced the field that smooth pursuit is guided in part by higher-level visual processes related to expectations, memory, and cognition.

Anticipatory behavior of human eye movements

Monday, May 13, 2013, 1:00 pm, Royal Palm Ballroom

The planning and control of eye movements is one of the most important tasks accomplished by the brain because of the close connection between eye movements and visual function.    Classical approaches assumed that eye movements are solely or primarily reactions to one or another type of sensory cue, but we now know that eye movements also display anticipatory responses to predicted signals or events.  This talk will illustrate several examples of anticipatory behavior of both smooth pursuit eye movements and saccades.   These anticipatory responses are automatic and effortless, depend on the decoding of symbolic environmental cues and on memory for recent events, and can be found in typical individuals and in those with autism spectrum disorder.   Anticipatory responses show that oculomotor control is driven by internal models that take into account both the capacity limits of the motor system and the states of the surrounding visual environment.