Research Facilities & Opportunities
MRI Facilty at James Cook University Hospital
The University has A 3T Siemens functional magnetic resonance imaging (fRMI) scanner at the James Cook University Hospital which is used for both clinical and research purposes. This multi-million pound system allows us to measure changes in activity in a person's brain down to millimetre resolution. By comparing people's brain activity when they complete tasks that differ in specifc way or when are presented with different stimuli (e.g. coloured or greyscale pictures) we can detrming the brain areas that might take part in particular psychological processes. Members of the CVVC have used the scanner in studies of colour perception, visuomotor control, visual cues to emotion, visual attention, cue use in decision making, and gender differences. The MRI facility has state of the art stimulus delivery (BOLD screen; ViSaGe; Auditory stimulus presentation) and response collection (button press and eye tracking).
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulus (TMS) Laboratory
The Transcranical Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory investigates the neurological basis of visual behaviour: attention, identification, localization and visuomotor behaviour using apparatus that delivers a pulsed magnetic field over a specific location on the scalp. The scalp and skull are effectively transparent to this change in magnetic field and so it can induce a change in brain state lasting a few thousandths of a second in the cortex lying directly below it without producing any discomfort or other ill effects for the person being tested. This methods allows us to safely and very briefly manipulate brain state in normal individuals and so test hypotheses about the roles of specific brain areas in psychological processes.
Contact Dr. Amanda Ellison for further details.
Face Perception Laboratory
The lab performs research into all areas of face perception using sophisticated computer graphics techniques to create stimuli based on data from real faces but in which perceived properties such as gender, emotion, health, and even personality can be manipulated. The stimuli produced can be presented simply as two-dimensional pictures but also in 3D. These techniques allow us to investigate:
•The brain mechanisms that enable us to perceive faces and similar stimuli
•How we perceive facial expressions and whether some people interpret facial expressions differently.
•How and why we find the faces of different people attractive.
Social Perception Laboratory
The lab investigates the psychological and neural processes underlying social perception, including the perception of emotion and other social information (e.g. identity, personality). Perception of social cues to emotion, personality, intents and so on can be gleaned both from facial expression (see FaceLab Home Page) and from body postures and movement (biological motion). We focus on such biological motion cues and use stimuli either of normally presented bodily actions or postures or using reduced stimuli in which we only present sets of points of light corresponding to the joint positions of a person's body as they move. People's responses to such 'point light displays' have been investigated in Durham for many years. In addition to behavioural experiments we are increasingly using the fMRI scanner to understand the way in which different brain areas contribute to social perception.
Vision, Attention and Awareness Laboratories
Durham has a long history of reseach into visual attention. We continue to investigate visual attention using display systems which allow us to present stimuli and record reactions to them with accuracies of tenths of milliseconds (see e.g. Cambridge Research Systems Ltd. with whom we have longstanding collaborative links) and also (somethimes in comination with) eye-tracking systems. Over the past twenty years we have also developed a number of techniques that allow us to tease apart the role of visual attention in visual consciousness, testing both normal people and neurological patients.
Adaptive Optics Laboratory
The lab works on adaptive optics, and its applications. The focus of the lab is on Ophthalmic Optics, Advanced Microscopy, and Stereoscopic Vision. Work on adaptive optics is in collaboration with Prof. Hannah Smithson and Dr. Laura Young, and started when both were at Durhazm although they have now moved to the Department of Experimental Psychology in Oxford.
Contact Prof. Gordon Love for further details.
The lab has state of the art equipment (Eye Link, minibird system, Optotrack, trakSTAR) to measurie visuomotor behaviour in humans such as grasping, reaching, eye movements and their interaction. This laboratory is one iof a number of collaborations between vision scientists and developmental psychologists in Durham. For example, studies are currently underway looking at the way in which children come to understand ownership and control of their bodies.
To understand colour vision we need to control the colour of stimuli with great precision. This allows us to produce colours that we know have specific effects on the three classes of cones (colour light receptor cells) in the eye. We use Cambridge Research Systems ViSaGe visual stimulus generators to produce stimuli on spectroradiometer calibrated displays. We can simulate, and then manipulate, 3D stimuli under real world illumination using physics-based 3D computer graphics rendering systems specially modified to calculate colours in terms of the response functions of the three human cone classes. These stimuli can be display in 3D using a mirror stereoscope system that does not introduce any unwanted changes in the colour of stimuli.
Strokes which affect vision are some of the most common neurological problems encountered by the NHS. Typically patients do not lost vision in its entirety but rather just lose vision in part of their visual field, often, for example, they may have normal vision in the left half of visual space (i.e. to the left of their direction of gaze) but be blind on the left. Such patients can, of course usually move their eyes, their heads, and their bodies and so see the whole of their environment with ease. Reading, and situations in which people have to search for something visually, remain extremely difficult however, as these patients cannot see locations in peripheral vision such as the location of the next word that they need to read in a text. Groups in Durham, in collaboration with Prof. J. Zihl (Munich) have been working to understand whether these patients have deficits in the representation of space in addition to their visual deficits and how these might affect reading and visual exploration. We are currently developing a rehabilitation programme (DREX) to help patients develop use of eye-movement strategies and so improve their reading and visual exploration.
Contact Dr. Alison Lane for more information.
The long term goal of the lab is to determine how the nervous system computes and represents 3D spatial structure from sensory information, such as vision, audition and proprioception. http://www.dur.ac.uk/lore.thaler/researchint.html
Affective Neuroscience Laboratory
The lab investigates how emotions interact with human cognition, using a variety of behavioural and neuroimaging methods (EEG/ERP, fMRI)
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