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.

Screen Shot of Spatial Working Memory Task
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.

Lincoln Triathlon for Parkinsons UK

In a couple of weeks time I’m aiming to complete the David Lloyd Lincoln Sprint Triathlon in benefit of Parkinsons UK. You can sponsor me here

Much of my published research over the years has looked at how  eye movements are affected in Parkinsons during cognitively PDdemanding tasks such as problem solving, rule learning and task switching (see earlier post). In the long term its possible my research could help to develop tests to improve earlier detection of the condition. But what research papers can’t get across is what amazingly nice people Parkinsons patients are  and how positive they are about helping with research.

Because of this I wanted to make at least a token effort to raise awareness and provide a direct benefit by doing my Triathlon in aid of Parkinsons UK.

Learning stimulus-saccade mappings in Parkinsons

In our most recent research paper (published this month in the journal Neuropsychologia ), we investigated how people with Parkinsons perform a computerised eye movement rule switching task, which we have used previously in patients with frontal lobe damage (see U-tube video: and Summer Scientist 2012).

Many every day tasks require us to learn to make links between what we see and where we look with our eyes. We also need to be able to switch between performing one task or another (e.g. making a cup of tea, reading the newspaper and then answering the telephone) and learn new skills such as preparing a new recipe or learning a new game or sport.

Unlike patients with frontal lobe strokes, People with Parkinsons didn’t show any big problems in switching between stimulus-saccade “rules” (e.g. blue stimulus = look left), but were slower to learn a new rule by trial and error learning compared to participants without Parkinson. This suggests that the brain circuits and chemicals affected in Parkinsons play a role in this ability and that people with Parkinsons may have problems learning new visuo-spatial tasks over and above the obvious difficulties the condition causes with movement.

Parkinson's disease

Please contact me if you would like a reprint of the paper or would like to know more about this research.





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.