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Professor Jonathan Erichsen

Professor Jonathan Erichsen

Professor of Visual Neuroscience

School of Optometry and Vision Sciences

+44 (0)29 2087 5656
+44 (0)29 2087 4859
Room 2.39, Maindy Road
Media commentator


Research interests

My primary research interest is achieving a better understanding of the interaction between sensory and motor mechanisms within the visual system.

For example, the prevalence of myopia has increased dramatically in the general population, and a growing body of evidence strongly suggests that overaccommodation ('near-work' ) and/or accommodative dysfunction play a role in this increase. Therefore, over the years, one aspect of my work has been centred on defining and stimulating the central near response pathways, including vergence and the pupillary light reflex, in order to better understand the interrelationship between accommodation and refractive development of the eye.

In addition, I have more recently been pursuing other active areas of research interest, including studies of the effect of environmental influences, such as stress, on an oculomotor pathology, congenital nystagmus. Any resultant changes in the frequency and/or size in the continuous eye movements characteristic of this syndrome can have profound consequences on certain aspects of visual performance and perception, thus impacting on the everyday lives of those with this condition.

My collaborations, both in the UK and internationally, have ranged from an assessment of nerve fibre layer damage in an experimental model of glaucoma to investigations of the role of the hippocampus in spatial navigation and visual discriminations. We have just received funding to investigate the remarkable ability of birds to sense and orient with respect to the earth's magnetic field. My team currently comprises two postdoctoral research associates and five postgraduate students.

We are supported principally by grants from the Leverhulme Trust and the Wellcome Trust, and our laboratories include state-of-the-art histological and neuroscience laboratories, a suite of videomicrographic image processing workstations, and an eye movement facility that includes both several relatively non-invasive infra-red recording systems.


    Education and professional qualifications

    • 1968 - 1972:     AB (First Class Honours in Biology)    Harvard University
    • 1979:                DPhil (Zoology)                                    University of Oxford
    • 1979 - 1983:     National Eye Institute (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellowship

    Honours and awards

    • 1972- Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa
    • 1972- NSF Postgraduate Studentship
    • 1972-1975- Marshall Scholar
    • 1972-1979- Danforth Foundation Fellow

    Academic positions

    • 1983 - 1996:         Research Assistant Professor Dept. of Neurobiology & Behavior, SUNY at Stony Brook, New York (USA)
    • 1995 - 2014:         Senior Lecturer  School of Optometry & Vision  Sciences, Cardiff University
    • 2006 - present:     Head, Visual Neuroscience & Molecular Biology Research Group
    • 2014 - present:     Professor, School of Optometry & Vision  Sciences, Cardiff University

    Speaking engagements

    • Interview with Richard Osman about his nystagmus [Mail on Sunday] - 4 November 2013
    • Featured as Director of the Cardiff Research Unit for Nystagmus.
    • Brain Games - 17 March 2013; 16 March 2014
    • Wellcome Trust funded public engagement event produced by neuroscientists at Cardiff University for Brain Awareness Week hosted by the National Museum of Wales, to allow members of the public to explore different facets of neuroscience, mental health and biomedical ethics in a series of entertaining and stimulating activities for children and their parents.
    • Nystagmus Network Open Day -   13 October 2011; 5 October 2013
    • An invited speaker at this annual event hosted in London by the Nystagmus Network charity to enable those with nystagmus and their families to speak to medics, researchers and other professionals in an informal setting. There is also an exhibition area for low vision aids and local groups.
    • Science in Health -   17 March 2011; 8 March 2012; 21-22 March 2013; 19-20 March 2014, Cardiff School of Medicine / University Hospital of Wales
      Demonstrations to introduce high school students to the function of eye movements and how they are recorded in the course of basic research and clinical diagnosis.
    • Leverhulme Trust Newsletter -   April 2011, Magnetoreception in the homing pigeon;     (see page 10) An article about our recently funded research on the remarkable ability of homing pigeons to sense the earth's magnetic field and orient accurately to find their way home.
    • Radio Wales Science Cafe -   4 April 2011
      This week Adam Walton, from BBC Radio Wales, visits the School to take a closer look at one of the most complex organs in the human body: the eye.
    • Open Day for the Research Unit for Nystagmus (RUN) - 17 April 2010
      First Open Day to pay tribute to and thank those who have volunteered for our studies, and to introduce those who were not volunteers to what we do in an informal environment. Interviewed by Insight Radio (RNIB).
    • Nystagmus Network (UK) - Research featured on charity web site and in Newsletters
    • 1996-present - Alumni admissions interviewer for Wales & Southwest England, Harvard University; member of Harvard Club of the United Kingdom (HCUK)
    • 2007-present - Organiser of the Cardiff Expat American Meetup Group

    Committees and reviewing

    • Director, Postgraduate Research
    • Lead, Visual Neuroscience Director, Research Unit for Nystagmus (RUN)
    • Director, Eye Movement Experimental Research Group
    • Research Committee
    • Postgraduate Research Committee
    • BSc Board of Studies

    Recent university committees (2000-2012)

































    • Tansley, K. and Erichsen, J. T. 1985. Vision. In: Campbell, B. and Lack, E. eds. A Dictionary of Birds. Calton: T & A D Poyser, pp. 623-629.







    • OP1105/1106 Instructor:     Human head & neck anatomy
    • OP2014                               Lecturer, Binocular Vision and Optometric Neurophysiology
    • OP3107                               Supervisor, Research Project

    Postgraduate students

    Current students (with anticipated completion year)

    2019 Onyx Raspe
    Visual perception in the presence of involuntary eye movements

    2019 Nikita Thomas
    Retinal predictors of visual performance in infantile nystagmus

    2019 Asma Ahida Binti Ahmad Zahidi
    Characteristics and impact of nystagmus in children with and without Down's syndrome

    2018 James Brawn
    Evaluating eye movements as biomarkers for monitoring the progression of Huntington's Disease to facilitate early intervention and clinical management (J.E. Williams Endowment)

    2017 Yu Huang
    Gene-environment interactions in myopia

    Past students (with year PhD thesis submitted)

    2015 John Barnes
    Magnetoreception in the homing pigeon (Columba livia)

    2015 Vandeflors Vinuela Navarro
    The assessment of tracking difficulties in children

    2015 Lee McIlreavy
    Models of oculomotor control as a means of understanding oscillopsia

    2015 Noor Aldoumani
    Engineering approaches to biological magnetoreception

    2014 Dr Matt Dunn
    Developing appropriate measures of visual performance in nystagmus

    2012 Dr Chris Dillingham
    A characterisation of the Centrifugal Visual System and its potential influence on emmetropisation

    2012 Dr Mizhanim Mohamad Shahimin
    Development and validation of a digital quantitative orthoptics workstation

    2012 Dr Yaiza Garcia Sanchez
    Analysis of retinal image quality for peripheral vision in humans and pigeons (Columba livia)

    2011 Dr Philip Jones
    The impact of stress on visual function in nystagmus

    2011 Dr Szymon Migalski
    A novel method for investigating magnetoreception in the homing pigeon

    2010 Dr Yen-Po (Paul) Chen
    The role of genetics in susceptibility to environmentally-induced myopia

    2010 Dr Paulina Samsel
    Retinal plasticity in experimental glaucoma

    2007 Dr Debbie Wiggins
    The impact of orbital eye position, visual demand and stress on infantile nystagmus syndrome

    2005 Dr Sarah Farrant Taylor
    Pathophysiology of retinal ganglion cell death in glaucoma

    2002 Dr Nick Wright
    CNS control of the near response

    2001 Dr Sally Blewitt
    Studies in the design synthesis and biological evaluation of some novel antiviral nucleosides and nucleotides

    2001 Dr Mansour Al-Mufarrej
    Accommodation and vergence in young children

    Current grant support

    • M Dunn, JT Erichsen
      Establishing clinical measures of temporal visual function in infantile nystagmus
      Nystagmus Network Grant Award
      2014-2015       £14,552
    • JT Erichsen, T Freeman
      Understanding the basis for oscillopsia in nystagmus to provide a basis for treatment
      Fight For Sight / Nystagmus Network Grant Award
      2014-2015       £15,000
    • S Leekam, S Wass, JT Erichsen, A Clarke, A Millington
      Visual attention control in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders;
      Wellcome Trust / NISCHR Seedcorn/Feasibility Grant
      2013-2014       £49,575
    • RJ Snowden, NS Gray, JT Erichsen
      In the eyes of the beholder: The use of pupil response as a measure of emotional processing;
      Wellcome Trust / NISCHR Seedcorn/Feasibility Grant
      2013-2014  £42,189
    • JT Erichsen
      Wellcome Trust ISSF Mobility Award
      2013-2014  £1,580
    • JT Erichsen, T Meydan
      Magnetoreception in homing pigeons: A novel approach
      Leverhulme Trust Project Grant
      2012-2015  £248,049
    • AJ Quantock & co-applicants, incl. JT Erichsen)
      BBSRC Doctoral Training Grant
      2009-2016  £212,040

    Current studentship grants

    • JM Woodhouse, JT Erichsen, C Williams (Bristol Eye Hospital)
      The assessment of tracking difficulties in children
      College of Optometrists (UK)
      2011-2014    £50,000

    Recent past grant support

    • JP Aggleton, , S Vann, SM O'Mara (Dublin), JT Erichsen
      Cellular substrates supporting the mnemonic functions of Papez;
      Wellcome Trust Project grant
      2010-2014  £205,032
    • SM Mara (Dublin), JP Aggleton, S Vann, JT Erichsen
      Cellular substrates supporting the mnemonic functions of Papez
      Wellcome Trust Project grant
      2010-2014 £220,932
    • JT Erichsen
      European Conference on Magnetic Sensors & Actuars & Satellite Wire Workshop
      Royal Society International Travel Grants - 2010/R2 Conference Participation
      2010-2011 £1,400
    • JP Aggleton, SM Mara, JT Erichsen, S Vann
    • Why are there parallel hippocampal;   diencephalic pathways for event memory?
      Wellcome Trust Project Grant
      2007-2010 £158,395
    • JT Erichsen
      Visual stimulus generation equipment for Research Unit for Nystagmus
      Nystagmus Network (UK)
      2008 £11,000
    • JT Erichsen (PI) & other co-applicants
      Multidisciplinary core facility for microscopic image analysis and 3-D stereology
      2006 £69,864
    • JA Guggenheim, JT Erichsen, PM Hocking
      Mapping QTL for ocular component dimensions in chicken
      BBSRC Project Grant
      2005-2008 £265,360

    Recent research seminars

    • July 2010- Invited speaker, EMSA Conference, Bodrum, Turkey Magnetic vision
    • Nov 2010- Invited speaker, Society of Low Vision Specialists, Denmark
      A stable view of the world: Why do we move our eyes?;
    • July 2011- Invited speaker, Gordon Conference, Maine, USA:
      Eye movements: The motor system that sees the world
      Magnetoreception in homing pigeons: The dynamics of saccadic head movements

    Areas of expertise

    External profiles