2 Projects, page 1 of 1
The bid is to provide state-of-the art eye tracking, audio, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) equipment to support the work of a group of researchers in the Behavioural Brain Sciences Centre at the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham. The eye tracking equipment will allow us to trace the gaze of people engaged in a variety of communicative tasks, such as reading texts, describing pictures, instructing or interacting with others to carry out tasks. Eye tracking is an extremely valuable tool for cognitive psychology because it provides an implicit measure of how attention is allocated in a task, enabling us to study the factors that modulate attention by assessing their effects on eye movements. Eyetracking is also well suited to study the cognitive processes occurring when people carry out complex tasks, facilitating the analysis of social behaviour. TMS is a technique for temporarily altering activity in targeted brain regions, providing novel information on the role of the targeted regions in cognitive tasks. The eye movement studies will provide us with a fine-grained analysis of factors influencing social cognition and language processing; the TMS studies will enable us to link our functional account of performance to underlying neural structures. Four sets of studies are planned, determined by the different laboratory set-ups required to cope with the contrasting demands of the experiments (with individual participants vs. with pairs of participants, with children and with neuropsychological patients). In set-up A, we will examine 'joint actions' performed by two participants operating either in co-operation or competition. Here we will measure eye movements to inform us about whether we attend to information that is irrelevant to our own task but that is used by confederates when tasks are performed together. We will also assess whether the perception of the other's gaze helps to co-ordinate the timing of actions. Set-up B will be used to understand the planning and generation of speech and gesture. Here eye movements provide fine-grained information about the relations between attention and speech articulation, enabling us to examine how speech planning is affected by age and by stuttering. We will also assess how speech and eye movements are co-ordinated under different task loads. The experiments on gesture will examine how eye and hand movements are co-ordinated to facilitate communication. Set-up C uses equipment specialised for testing with children. Here we will assess how both adults and children conduct referential communication, and what factors dictate whether we take into account the information available to the person we are communicating with. We will also examine eye movements in children as they learn to read, examining the relations between eye movements, reading and speaking. Set-up 4 will employ equipment that can be used with neuropsychological patients and in experiments using TMS. The projects here will test (i) patients and (ii) effects of TMS to specific brain regions, to elucidate the brain regions involved when we engage in joint actions with other people. TMS will also be used to evaluate the brain regions involved when we integrate speech and gesture in order to facilitate communication. The experiments will help us understand the functional processes, and the brain regions, critical to aspects of social cognition (particularly joint actions) and both verbal (spoken) and non-verbal (gestural) communication.
There is mounting evidence that deficits in saccadic and smooth pursuit eye movements are characteristic of dementia. These deficits can be detected in a lab or clinical setting using specialised eye-tracking equipment but this is inconvenient for the patient, costly for the NHS and introduces the risk of sampling bias because clinic visits are inevitably intermittent. The aim of the Monitoring Of Dementia using Eye Movements (MODEM) project is to enable the longitudinal collection of data at low cost and with minimal inconvenience, to provide a novel platform for prognosis and diagnosis of dementia. We propose to tackle monitoring of disease progression with in-home eye tracking and computational analysis of eye movement embedded with patients' everyday activity. This is an entirely novel approach, and hence high risk. However, it has the potential to lead to major breakthroughs, for three reasons: (i) Eye movement and cognitive health are closely linked, including initial evidence of markers for dementia diagnosis. (ii) Eye trackers are on the verge of a step change from lab instrument to widely deployed sensor, and their adoption for contact-less health monitoring is becoming a realistic proposition. (iii) People/patients use their eyes in daily routines that are visually engaging, and that present rich contexts for collection of information about how their eye movement changes over time, as a function of disease progression. Our vision is that rather than patients having to attend a clinic or laboratory, eye movement data can be collected in settings where the technology is ambient and peoples' behaviour is relaxed and natural. The target settings are peoples' own homes and care homes. Eye trackers can be placed strategically to observe eye movement in the context of everyday tasks. For example they can be used to track hand-eye coordination in routine tasks such as tea-making for possible signs of change; these might signal cognitive decline long before routines become more obviously affected. Eye trackers can also be deployed interactively. People spend significant amounts of their daily lives as consumers of visual media, especially through TV, which affords interactive stimulation of eye movement. For example, content (e.g. TV programmes) can be designed to elicit behaviours of interest for diagnosis. People can also be provided with active gaze controls for interaction, for instance as alternative to remote control functions of a TV. Use of gaze for control stimulates specific eye movements which can be used for testing. Though beyond the scope project, this could also lead to therapeutic application of the technology. Moreover, as eye trackers are based on cameras and computer vision, this opens up avenues for integration with other vision-based approaches such as analysis of facial expressions, for multimodal cognitive health analysis.