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Using Co-Registration of Eye Movements and Electroencephalography to Investigate Ageing Effects on Visual Cognition


About This PhD Project

Project Description

Normative ageing and age-related neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, are associated with reductions in visuo-cognitive abilities required for the effective performance of many activities of daily life (e.g., reading, navigation, object-finding). These losses in visuo-cognitive abilities have been widely studies using behavioural tasks, including tasks that use precise measures of eye movement behaviour to draw inferences about impairments to cognitive functions. However, despite these efforts, little is known about the underlying neural correlates of these impairments, although such information will be important for understanding ageing effects on underlying brain processes. The proposed research will address this issue by using novel methods that synchronise the recording of electroencephalography (i.e., EEG) with eye movements to examine the specific patterns of brain activity that occur on each fixation (i.e., the fixate-related potential or FRP).

The research will be undertaken in the Neuroscience and Behaviour laboratories in the George Davies Medical Research Centre, using a state-of-the-art EEG system for the co-registration of EEG and eye movements in real-time. Our research group is the first to apply these methods to understanding normative ageing effects on the neural correlates of factors influencing the recognition of words during natural reading. Potential projects in this area could: (1) extend this work by undertaking novel investigations of ageing effects on the neural correlates of reading comprehension, with the objective of determining whether there are differences in the underlying patterns of neural activity produced by older adults (aged 65+ years) compared to groups of younger adults (aged 18-30 years); or (2) examine effects of neurodegeneration on these patterns of brain activity. There is also scope, however, for projects that use experimental methods (e.g., visual search) to assess ageing effects on the neural basis of visual-cognitive processes involved in the search and recognition of visual objects.

The human participants for this research would be recruited using a database of older adult volunteers and links with local NHS memory clinics, while young adult participants would be recruited from the University student population. The PhD student would receive training in the design of human experimental studies, use of the co-registration method, and acquisition of eye movement and electro-encephalographic data during the performance of cognitive tasks in real time. Training would also be given in the analysis of the resulting eye movement and FRP data and application of linear mixed-effect modelling using statistical packages in the R programming environment. The student would be encouraged and supported in presenting the results of their research to conferences focused on the application of cognitive neuroscience methods in ageing research.

Eligibility:
UK/EU applicants only.

Entry requirements:
Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject.
The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable: https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/entry-reqs/eng-lang-reqs/ielts-65

How to apply:
Please refer carefully to the application guidance and apply using the online application link at https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/funded-opportunities/bbsrc-mibtp

Project / Funding Enquiries:
Application enquiries to
Closing date for applications: Sunday 12th January 2020

References

Degno, F., Loberg, O., Zang, C., Zhang, M., Donnelly, N., & Liversedge, S. P. (2019). Parafoveal previews and lexical frequency in natural reading: evidence from eye movements and fixation-related potentials. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,148, 453-474.

Henderson, J. M., Luke, S. G., Schmidt, J., & Richards, J. E. (2013). Co-registration of eye movements and event-related potentials in connected-text paragraph reading. Frontiers in systems neuroscience, 7, 28.

Kamienkowski, J. E., Ison, M. J., Quiroga, R. Q., Sigman, M. (2012). Fixation-related potentials in visual search: a combined EEG and eye tracking study. Journal of Vision, 12.

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