Habituation is the most basic form of memory, yet very little is known about its underlying mechanisms. Given the assumed role of the gaze control system in stimulus selection (see section 2) and the direct link between habituation and stimulus selection, we assume that the gaze control system is involved in habituation. We therefore study the gaze control system of the barn owl with the aim to explore mechanisms of habituation. To this end we have developed a video based system to measure the pupil dilation responses and eye movements in barn owls. As previously shown, the pupil of the barn owl dilates in response to surprising auditory stimuli and readily habituates to repeating stimuli. Our initial analysis demonstrates a similar habituation to visual stimuli and shows that eye movements also habituate to repeating stimuli. These initial results provided us with an ability to use ocular parameters as a behavioral metric for habituation. To further characterize the habituation of the pupil response, we are currently studying effects of interactions between visual and auditory stimuli on the habituation process.
Project Leader: Shai Netser
Project Poster from the ISFN conference 2009 (click to enlarge)