Research

Recent and current research projects by members of the group include:

The influence of emotion on cognition
Susan Chipchase
This project uses experimental methodologies to examine how emotion and emotion regulation affect memory and attention, and in a real-world setting In particular it investigates the influence of emotions experienced by dentists on their clinical decision making. A developmental strand of the project investigates how children develop an ability to regulate their own emotions.

The role of REM sleep in directed forgetting of emotional words
Simon Durrant
Sleep is beneficial for memory consolidation, and REM sleep in particular seems to benefit emotional memories.  A long-standing theory also suggests, however, that REM sleep may be involved in forgetting unhelpful or unpleasant memories.  In this project we use multi-session behavioural tests and polysomnography to investigate the role of sleep in directed forgetting of positive, negative and neutral words.  We aim to see whether or not emotional words, and in particular negative emotional words, are selectively retained, forgotten or treated no differently to other words, as a function of the amount of REM sleep obtained.

Exploitation of environmental regularities in visual processing
Funded by Leverhulme Trust
Kun Guo, Petra Pollux, Hettie Roebuck
We have evolved to operate within a dynamic visual world in which natural visual signals are not random but have various statistical regularities (i.e. spatiotemporal regularity, co-linearity, co-circularity). In this project we use a combined approach involving visual psychophysics, ERP and TMS to examine how our visual system exploits these regularities to achieve accurate and efficient representations of the external world.

“Gamefying” Visual Search Training For Children With Visual Impairment
Funded by a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Grant- Technology Strategy Board / Medical Research Council
Tim Hodgson & Conor Linehan (Computer Science)
In collaboration with a visual impairment specialist education provider (The WESC Foundation) we are developing and evaluating a computer game to improve vision in children with visual field loss following brain injury. This two year project draws on our previous research examining the benefits of visual search training in adults with Hemianopia and also aims to get more knowledge of visual neuroscience into practice in special education.

The Relationship Between Speech and Motor Control
John Hudson, Jessica Hodgson
Our bodies are anatomically very symmetrical. If you were to draw a line down the centre of your body from head to toe, each half would probably mirror the other to a large extent. However, research shows us that functionally our bodies are not symmetrical. For example, most people prefer to use one hand over the other for every day tasks, and especially so for complex tasks like writing.

Evidence from research into speech lateralisation across the brain’s hemispheres shows that there are specific neural patterns displayed in people who are left handed compared to those who are right handed. This study will examine the relationship between hand dominance, motor control and speech lateralisation in the brain. It will use a variety of techniques to assess hand dominance and compare these measures to the patterns shown from fTCD data of speech production.

Objective Accounts of Op-Art Appreciation
Funded by British Academy/Leverhume Trust
Louise O’Hare
Psychological research has provided evidence to suggest that some artwork is ‘pleasing to the eye’ as it has characteristics that the visual system can process with optimal efficiency. In contrast to this, the artistic merit of other genres of artwork is reliant on the piece being visually challenging, rather than aesthetically pleasing, in particular Op-art. As opposed to semantically difficult pieces, visually challenging artwork tends to produce illusions and even discomfort in observers.

Two distinct causes have been discussed: erroneous eye-movement signals, and excessive neural responses, termed ‘hyperexcitation’. The current project proposes to investigate the workings of the visual system, and how this might contribute to the appreciation of artwork, using both subjective judgements and physiological measurements of observers viewing Op-art-based stimuli. The project aims to strengthen collaborations between artists and scientists based at different institutions, and to increase public interest in both science and art.

The influence of the human form on visual judgements of movement
Funded by ESRC
George Mather,  Becky Sharman
Humans live in complex societies encompassing millions of people, so social interactions dominate much of human behaviour. These interactions depend on an ability to perceive the moods, intentions and actions of other people, and visual perception is especially important in terms of the richness of the information it can provide.

Research has shown that ‘actions speak louder than words'; perception of movement plays a fundamental role in many social interactions. This project investigates how human visual motion perception is optimised for perceiving the actions of other people:  How are social attributes derived from sensory data? Do social attributes actually influence sensory processing?