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Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Measuring Visual Sensitivity to Emotional Facial Expressions in Health and Disease

School of Health and Life Sciences

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Dr A Logan , Dr U Shahani , Prof G Loffler Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Project reference number: SHLS19031

Humans tend to leak emotion through facial expressions. A brief glimpse of a face is often sufficient to determine that an individual is feeling happy, sad, angry or surprised. Facial expressions are an important component of non-verbal communication and have links with quality of life. For example, while a smile facilitates bonding, a fearful expression could provide an early warning of imminent threat.

The overarching aim of this project is to develop a new approach to measuring the sensitivity of human vision to a range of facial expressions of emotion. We will design a new, computer-based test which directly measures the accuracy with which humans can detect and recognise emotional facial expressions. We will initially utilise this test to investigate visual sensitivity to facial expressions in participants with healthy vision. Later phases of the project will apply the test to develop understanding of facial expression sensitivity in both healthy ageing and ocular disease:

The proportion of older adults within the UK population is sharply increasing. This ‘ageing population’ requires us to develop an understanding of the effect of ageing on fundamental human functions. Healthy ageing reduces sensitivity across several aspects of vision; from identifying letters to discrimination of complex shapes. The newly-developed test of sensitivity to facial expressions offers an opportunity to measure the effect of healthy ageing on sensitivity to facial expressions.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive disease of central vision and a leading cause of visual impairment among older adults. While patients with AMD report difficulty with face perception, there is little known about the impact of the disease on the ability to recognize facial expressions. We will use the new test to quantify the impact of AMD on visual sensitivity to facial expressions. We will then determine if viewing faces in regions of peripheral vision, which are unaffected by AMD, improves the ability to recognize facial expressions in patients with visual impairment.

The successful applicant will hold a minimum of an honours (2:1 or above) or Master’s degree in Optometry, Psychology or a related discipline. Candidates are requested to submit a detailed research proposal (of a maximum of 2000 words) on the project area as part of their application.

Research Strategy and Research Profile
Glasgow Caledonian University’s research is framed around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We address the Goals via three societal challenge areas of Inclusive Societies, Healthy Lives and Sustainable Environments.
In addition to addressing the societal challenge area of Healthy Lives, this project is part of the research activity of the Applied Vision Research group and is aligned with the group’s themes of investigating vision and the maintenance of ocular health.

How to Apply
This project is available as a 3 year full-time PhD study programme with a start date of 1st October 2019
For information on how to apply and the online application form please go to
Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview.

Funding Notes


Leppänen J. M. & J. K. Hietanen. 2004. Positive facial expressions are recognized faster than negative facial expressions, but why? Psychol. Res. 69: 22-29.
Pinkham A. E., M. Griffin, R. Baron et al. 2010. The face in the crowd effect: anger superiority when using real faces and multiple identities. Emotion. 10: 141.
Lambrecht L., B. Kreifelts & D. Wildgruber. 2012. Age-related decrease in recognition of emotional facial and prosodic expressions. Emotion. 12: 529.
Tejeria L., R. A. Harper, P. H. Artes et al. 2002. Face recognition in age related macular degeneration: perceived disability, measured disability, and performance with a bioptic device. Br. J. Ophthalmol. 86: 1019-1026.
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