Research News

Eye-tracker for freely moving animals patented

The US Patent and Trademark office has granted a patent for an eye tracking system for small animals. This invention allowed researchers at caesar to quantify small animals’ eye and head positions during natural behavior. The device was developed by a group led by director Dr. Jason Kerr at caesar, Bonn.

Dr. Kerr’s Department studies the mechanisms that allow mammals to make vision-based decisions. Knowing what an individual sees is fundamental to this vision research as how the eye moves to actively scan the surrounding world dictates exactly what the visual parts of the brain have to encode.

Traditionally eye tracking equipment is either large, as is the case when used in human studies, or unable to measure all eye rotations when made small enough for small animals. Furthermore these systems can’t be used with freely moving animals.

To fill this technological gap, members of caesar research department BBO (Behavior and Brain Organization) developed a miniature and accurate system of their own. The resulting “Ocular Videography System” led to a significant discovery.

Unlike humans, the eye movements of a naturally behaving rodent are highly dependent on the head position and maintain an overhead field of view and maximize the surround view to detect predators. The findings were published in the science journal “Nature” (

The group – consisting of institute director Dr. Jason Kerr, researchers Dr. Damian Haydon Wallace, Dr. Jürgen Sawinski and Dr. David Greenberg – have since used the Ocular Videography System to measure eye movements on a variety of mammalian species.

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