Visual Neuroscience and Specialist Education

We have been invited to submit a full version of our Knowledge Transfer Partnership proposal with the West of England School and College for Young People with Little or No Sight (

The project aims to bring knowledge of visual neuroscience into specialist visual impairment education, where a large number of children have visual problems that are of a neurological origin (rather than arising from disorders of the eye). This innovative partnership with the University of Lincoln School of Psychology and School of Computer Science will also develop a visual rehabilitation “game”: A fun computer based tool which will benefit children with visual field loss (i.e. “holes” in their vision due to damage to the brains visual pathways). The game will use principles derived from existing programmes used in adults with visual field loss, in which patients have to search for difficult to find objects on a computer screen (a so-called “visual search” task), but modified to make them more interesting and fun for children and to maximise the efficiency of learning.

I am personally excited about the prospect of this project coming to fruition and it represents a great opportunity to generat impact from knowledge derived from neuroscience and psychology in order to put it into practice in specialist education.

References and relevant links

Pambakian ALM, Mannan SK, Hodgson TL & Kennard C (2004) Saccadic visual search training: a treatment for patients with homonymous hemianopia Journal Of Neurology Neurosurgery And Psychiatry  75(10): 1443-1448.

fMRI research on eating disorders – the role of the insula?

This week I will be visiting the Regional Eating Disorders Service at Ulleval Hospital University of Oslo:

Clinical psychologist and current PhD student Ian Frampton has been carrying out research based at the unit using fMRI to determine if individuals with anorexia nervosa have abnormal patterns of activity in the insula cortex of the brain. He is examining patterns of activity in patients and controls while they perform cognitive tasks that tax working memory, executive control and attention, some of which are specially modified to use materials which might activate body image or food reward processing systems.

Historically, the insula cortex was known to play an important role in advanced processing neural signals coming from the gut (some people have even called it the “hippocampus of the gut”), but more recently it is perhaps more widely known for its involvement in emotion and socio-economic decision making  (see earlier post  on our coordination game fMRI study).  Ians research spans  the two fields, so I am really pleased to be involved with it and very much looking forward seeing his latest imaging results!

The research has the promise to provide better techniques for assessing and diagnosing eating disorders, as well as better fundamental understanding of the neural, cognitive and emotional mechanisms involved in anorexia and related conditions.

PhD Research Opportunities

A fully funded studentship is available in the School of Psychology, University of Lincoln

Applicants are encouraged from all areas of psychology, but please contact me in particular if you are interested in eye movement control and cognition in Parkinsons disease and focal brain damage.  Another potential project for a PhD researcher would be the development of saccadic orienting to socio-biological cues in children (see

The School of Psychology is well equiped for Cognitive Neuroscience research with a full EEG / ERP recording system, Tobii and soon to arrive Eyelink 1000 Eyetracker as well  a Transcranial Magentic Stimulation system. Opportunities for carrying out fMRI based research also exist via several close by research centres.

A link to the School website including research groups, staff interests and lab pages is here:

Further particulars of the PhD studentship opportunities in the College of Social Sciences including details of how to apply are available via: