Social neuroscience research in the news

Our recent fMRI study of brain activity in cooperative economic games is featured on the Economics and Social Research Council website this week: 

The research aimed at understanding the neural, cognitive and emotional processes via which social conventions and norms develop in societies. lThe abstract of the full paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Neuroscience Psychology and Economics is available here: 


Understanding and Improving Functional Vision in Specialist Education

On 25th April I will be speaking at the West of England School and College (WESC) conference on understanding and improving functional vision. I will be giving an overview of my research on the brain systems underlying eye movement control and how they are affected in cases of neurological damage entitled Eye movements, visual attention and the brain.

WESC is a visual impairment specialist school and further education provider in Exeter with an outstanding reputation for excellence and innovation. We are developing an exciting new collaboration to embed visual neuroscience expertise and knowledge in specialist education where to date the emphasis has been upon the role of the eye itself in vision rather than the brain.

Experimental Psychology Society Meeting – Hull 11th-13th April 2012

Two of my former PhD students (Nicola Gregory and Sarah Bate) and ex post-doc (Ben Parris) were among the presenters at this years spring EPS meeting in Hull.

Nicola Gregory’s work described how processing of socio-biological cues is affected following damage to a part of the brain known as the orbitofrontal cortex, while Sarah Bate’s presentation described how people with prosopagnosia (so called “face blindness”) can benefit with treatment using the drug Oxytocin applied using a simple nasal spray. The drug has the effect of making them better at recognising faces they have seen before.

Ben Parris’s work looks at how cognitive function can be influenced through hypnosis. His remarkable results show how the “Stroop effect” (in which people are slower to name the colour of words which spell out another colour e.g. “RED” printed in blue) can be eliminated under certain conditions simply by placing the suggestion in peoples mind that the words are written in an incomprehensible language.

The Conference also included a symposium on associative learning in honour of Geoffrey Hall and an excellent talk on decision making for self and others by University of Lincoln’s own Fenja Ziegla, as well as my own work on rule learning in People with Parkinsons.

Giving people the eye and showing them the finger

Nicola Gregory (my former PhD student) and I have just published a paper in Perception examining how eye gaze, arrow and finger pointing cues affect how quickly we direct attention (via saccadic eye movements) . Even when these directional cues arent relevant to what you’re doing we find that they tend to effect your eye movements.

A link to the abstract is available here

Interestingly, more realistic biological cues such as a pointing finger were generally better than abstract cues such as arrows for directing attention. We slightly cheekily suggest in the paper that road and other directional signage should revert back to the old fashioned “finger post” form seen only in the remote country lanes of devon and other such places.

Nicola Gregory will also be presenting some of her work at the EPS conference in Hull this week.