Positively Parkinsons @ Lincoln

This Friday 17th November we will be hosting Lincoln’s first Positively Parkinsons event in conjunction with Parkinsons UK and the Lincoln and District Parkinsons group. Parkinson's disease
The event provides an opportunity to find out more about the condition and meet people with Parkinsons. It will include sessions in which you can find out about a day in the life of a Parkinsons nurse as well as a talk from former Lincoln psychology student Jade Pickering who is now carrying out research into Parkinsons disease as part of her PhD at the University of Manchesters BEAM research group.

The event takes place in the Sarah Swift building on the main University of Lincoln campus from 10-3pm. Members of the public, Lincoln staff and students are welcome to join us. To book your place or find out more contact Dave Swindells (dswindells@parkinsons.org.uk).

Public Engagement Project Success!

Over the next 12 months I will be busy as co-investigator on a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council  as part of the Public Engagementenagement with Research Catalyst scheme.

Led by School of History and Heritage’s Prof Carenza Lewis (of Time Team fame), the PEARL (Public Engagement for All in Research at Lincoln) project aims to enrich the culture of public engagement in research across the university, putting it on an equal footing with research and teaching.

Public engagement with research seeks to inform, inspire, upskill and enrich individuals and communities. PEARL will establish Lincoln as a model for other universities in the extent to which it values and supports staff and student public engagement activity.

The project will initially seek views of staff and students to evaluate perceptions, strengths and weaknesses of how the University currently eEPSRCngages non-academics in its research, but there will also be opportunities to get more hands on with PEARL including funding for public engagement events, a conference and awards so watch this space!

 

Lincoln and District Parkinsons Group

I am very honoured to have been invited to be  Branch President for the Lincoln and District Branch of Parkinsons UK for 2017-18.

I have been working with members of the local group over the last 4 years investigating the control of eye movements in Parkinsons. This has been a long standing research interest off and on since my days as a post-doctoral research fellow at Charing Cross Hospital in London.

Parkinson's diseaseOur research has shown that there is a particular “marker” of Parkinsons in eye movements, namely “multi-stepping” or jerkiness of eye movements measurable under certain conditions with a computerised eye tracker. In other situations some people with Parkinsons appear to be slightly more distractable and not organise eye movements as efficiently as healthy people when carrying out problem solving and memory tasks.

parkinsons saccades

Multistepping saccades

The research has potential in the future to help in the early diagnosis of Parkinsons, the assessment of cognitive impairments in Parkinsons as well as helping people with Parkinsons understand the subtle ways in which the condition might affect them beyond the obvious symptoms seen in other sort of movement.

I’ve also observed that People with Parkinson are extra-ordinarily nice and generous people with an enthusiasm for research. I continue to do whatever I can in my own little way to go the extra mile (or 20!) to support them, so I was very pleased to accept the appointment as Branch President. I am looking forward to meeting established and new members at the Annual General Meeting next month in Bracebridge Heath and giving a short update on recent research.

26th British Oculomotor Group Meeting

bomgThis week I will be presenting at the 26th British Oculomotor group in Cardiff.

I’m pleased to be attending this meeting and catching up with recent research from colleagues especially as I used to help organise this meeting many years ago when it was hosted at Charing Cross hospital London.

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Screen Shot of Spatial Working Memory Task

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Eye gaze directional cue

This year I will be presenting recent work examining how people use eye movements to perform a test of Spatial Working Memory (Based on the widely used CANTAB  Spatial Working Memory task) and differences in this between healthy people and people with Parkinsons Disease.

Dr Frouke Hermens from the School of Psychology will also be presenting her work at the meeting on real world eye tracking studies of the effect of social attentional cues.

“Busy Bee” paper published in Experimental Brain Research

We have a paper published this month in the journal Experimental Brain Research based upon 2 years of data collected at the Lincoln Summer Scientist event which looked at how children’s saccadic eye movements are affected by directional socio-biological cues (see previous posts here and here).

We report results from 137 children who performed a pro-saccade task presented as  a computer game in which they had to keep their eyes on a cartoon bee that jumped unpredictably from the middle to the left or right of a computer screen. The Eyelink II system was used to examine how quickly and accurately the children followed the bee while pictures of arrows and photos of pointing hands and eyes appeared in middle the screen just before the “buzy bee” character moved (see Youtube video).busy bee task

We found that children were distracted by the direction of the pointing pictures such that their eyes were quicker to move towards the cartoon bee when she jumped in the same (Congruent) as opposed to the opposite (Incongruent) direction to the pointing finger, eye or arrow. Interestingly for the youngest group of children (3-5 years) this effect was found most strongly for pointing fingers. Only older children showed the effect for eyes and arrows. The paper makes the case for the view that children have to learn to link what they see in the world around them with the direction of interesting information and events. One of the first “cues” to attention that young children learn may be the direction of an adult’s pointing index finger.

Another interesting finding of the work was that for the youngest group of children when eye gaze cues overlapped with the onset of the peripheral target bee a large proportion of “omission errors” were made such that they missed the target completely and didn’t make a saccade. I was involved in the testing myself at Summer Scientist and I found this feature of young children’s behaviour particularly fascinating. It seems strikingly similar to stimulus “extinction” and ommission errorsneglect seen in adult stroke patients. Rather than just not moving their eyes I think 3-4 year olds didn’t “see” the Bee under these conditions and this is something I’d hope to follow up at future summer Scientist weeks.

The paper is full open access and available here . See here for another recent Experimental Brain Research study I’ve only recently seen by a group in Oslo showing ERP response to finger pointing cues in babies.