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Zhang Tao
Tel:  86-10-64855360
Fax:  86-10-64855360
Mailing Address:  16 Lincui Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101, China
Email:  taozhang@psych.ac.cn
Website:  http://neuron.psych.ac.cn/
2010–present  Professor, State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, Institute of Psychology,
         Chinese Academy of Sciences
2007 - 2010   Project Scientist, Section of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, College of Biological
         Sciences, University of California at Davis
2000 - 2006   Postdoctoral research associate with Dr. Kenneth H. Britten, Center for Neuroscience,
         University of California at Davis
Research Interests:
One of the most significant tasks in cognitive neuroscience is to establish a functional link between the activity of neurons and sensory perception. The main goal of our research is to understand the neuronal processes that mediate visual perception, visually guided behavior and multi-sensory integration/interaction. To fullfill this purpose, we are conducting parallel behavioral and neurophysiological experiments in monkeys that are trained to perform selected perceptual tasks. By recording the extracellular activity of cortical neurons, eye movements and behavioral performance simultaneously, we are able to uncover the linkage between neuronal activity and perceptual behavioral. By modifying neuronal activity, we can test whether behavior is affected in a predictable manner. Computer modelling techniques are then used to guide future investigations.
Community service:
2000     DiAo Award, Chinese Science Academy
1998     Chairman Award, Institute of Biophysics
1992 -1993  Nankai scholarship, Nankai University
Selected Publications:
1. T. Zhang, K. H. Britten. Parietal Area VIP Causally Influences Heading Perception during Pursuit Eye Movements. J. Neurosci. 2011, 31(7):2569 –2575
2. T. Zhang, K. H. Britten. The responses of VIP neurons are sufficiently sensitive to support heading judgments. J. Neurophysiol. 2010, 103:1865-1873
3. T. Zhang, K. H. Britten. The virtue of simplicity. Nat Neurosci. 2006, 9(11):1356-1357
4. T. Zhang, K. H. Britten. Clustering of selectivity for optic flow in the ventral intraparietal area.  Neuroreport 2004, 15(12):1941-1945
5. T. Zhang, H. W. Heuer, K. H. Britten. Parietal area VIP neuronal responses to heading stimuli are encoded in head-centered coordinates. Neuron 2004; 42(6): 993-1001

On-going project: The neuronal basis of self-motion perception

 When we move through the natural scene, the image on our retina is also in motion. Gibson termed this self-induced visual motion "optic flow". Optic flow provides visual input to guide our self-movement. If we keep our eyes still when we move forward, the retinal image appears to expand. The center of this expansion pattern indicates our self-movement direction, which we can also call heading direction. High-order areas in the visual motion system of dorsal extrastriate cortex have been implicated in the analysis of optic flow stimuli that helps to support perception of observer heading. For the past few years, we have been using the ventral intraparietal area (VIP, located at the bottom of parietal lobe) as a model for studying how optic flow information is processed and the functional role of VIP in heading direction discrimination task. Monkeys are trained to perform demanding perceptual tasks, and we record from single or multiple neurons in cortex during performance of these tasks. This allows us to directly investigate the neuronal mechanism underlying particular perceptual behavior. In addition, Electrical microstimulation is used to test the direct linkage between physiology and behavior. Besides the standard biostatistical methods, we also use computational modeling to interpret results and guide future studies.