LNCO welcomes Prof Alice Cronin-Golomb

© 2020 EPFL

© 2020 EPFL

Professor Alice Cronin-Golomb from Boston University's Psychological & Brain Sciences department and director of the Vision & Cognition Laboratory is joining LNCO for a period of six months. The visit, focused on motion perception in Parkinson's Disease, is supported by SNF's Scientific Exchanges initiative. 

Project Aims

Hallucinations are a frequent and distressing occurrence in Parkinson’s disease (PD), a movement disorder that is associated with numerous non-motor symptoms including visual perception disorders. Besides being disruptive in themselves, visual and visuospatial disorders interact with motor functions such as walking, with major impact on quality of life for individuals with this disorder .

One of the most predominant and earliest types of hallucinations that occurs in PD and in other clinical conditions is the “feeling of presence”, which is the vivid sensation that somebody is nearby when no one is actually present and can neither be seen nor heard (i.e., sense of presence or presence hallucination, PH). Whereas it is difficult to study hallucinations that occur naturally because of the unpredictability of their occurrence in time and place, Dr. Blanke and his colleagues at EPFL have made it possible to induce and investigate the behavioral mechanisms of PH in healthy participants, psychiatric patients , and PD patients, through the use of a sensorimotor robotic procedure and method. In addition, by adapting the sensorimotor stimulation technology to the MRI environment, it has been possible to identify the neural correlates of such robot-induced PH in healthy participants .

It is not known why hallucinations including PH occur naturally in PD. Dr. Blanke’s work to date in PH suggests the importance of sensorimotor signals and specific frontal and temporal brain areas such as the inferior frontal gyrus and middle temporal cortex . Many of the same areas are important to the perception of biological motion (the perception of human movement), as studied by Dr. Cronin-Golomb in PD, and biological motion perception, like PH, has been linked to sensorimotor mechanisms. What distinguishes biological motion from other visual object motion is the social, human aspect. The question arises as to whether deficits in biological motion perception underlie PH, as PH by definition is an experience of social perception (the presence of another person). Should this be the case, it may be possible to identify and even reduce the number or extent of PH in PD through interventions to improve biological motion perception. Such improvement of biological motion perception in PD has already been accomplished in Dr. Cronin-Golomb’s lab.


About Prof Cronin-Golomb

"Dr. Cronin-Golomb graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1984 with a Ph.D. in Psychobiology, after receiving a B.A. in Biology-Psychology from Wesleyan University. She joined Boston University in 1989 and is a faculty member in the Clinical Program and the Program in Brain, Behavior, and Cognition, as well as the interdisciplinary Center for Systems Neuroscience and Center for Research in Sensory Communication and Emerging Neural Technology (CRESCENT). She is director (along with Dr. Michael Lyons) of the Center for Clinical Biopsychology and is director of the Vision and Cognition Laboratory."

"Dr. Cronin-Golomb’s principal research focus is on the neural correlates of perception and cognition in aging and age-related neurodegenerative disease. Her main methodology is behavioral and includes visual psychophysics, neuropsychological assessment, and sensory/cognitive neuroscience, with collaborators in neuroimaging. A current emphasis is on the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (perception, cognition, mood, stigma, sleep, circadian function, autonomic function) and their interaction with motor symptoms, with an emphasis on motor subtypes (e.g., body side of PD onset, type of symptom at onset). Her lab engages in basic research and in the development of interventions to enhance quality of life. Dr. Cronin-Golomb also has a long-standing interest in perception and cognition in Alzheimer’s disease. Her work and that of her students is supported by the National Institute of Health, the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, and the Boston University Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Office, Affinity Research Collaborative (ARC)." (source BU)