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Variation in the frame rate of visual perception: testing at the margins of human ability

The Department of Zoology

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Dr Andrew Jackson No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Time is in the eye of the beholder:

Some animals see the world faster than others. That is, the frame rate of vision varies considerably across species. This is related to how fast they have to move in the world and therefore has important functional and ecological consequences. Humans on average see the world at 36 “frames per second”, but this trait varies substantially between individuals and we know nothing about how normal variation might affect performance. This phenomenon can be measured using techniques such as Critical Flicker Fusion threshold, which measures the frequency at which a flickering stimulus can no longer be detected as such. We aim to develop robust psychophysical methods to reliably measure those differences in field conditions outside the laboratory and quantify the magnitude of variation within and among individuals. We will assess the real-world consequences of this variation in an arena where human perceptual abilities are tested to the limits and where small individual differences may make the difference between success and failure, namely in high-speed sports. This work will provide a foundation to explore wider questions: is the hypothesised advantage due to selection or training? What is the trade-off in ecological and evolutionary terms that determines perceptual frame rate? How heritable is this trait? And what are the underlying brain mechanisms? This project offers training from a collaborative team with expertise in perception, decision-making, genetics, neuroscience, ecology, and evolution. Depending on the candidate, this project has relevance to sports science, robotics and artificial vision, and in virtual and augmented reality.

Essential skills: The applicant must have a degree (undergraduate and/or postgraduate) in psychology, neuroscience, physiology, animal behaviour or related disciplines.

Other skills relevant to the project: Python / Matlab or other coding language. Experience working with human subjects. Psychophysics, neurophysiology testing. Experimental design and data analysis.

The project is co-supervised by:

Prof Andrew Jackson (zoology) https://www.tcd.ie/Zoology/research/groups/jackson/

Prof Kevin Mitchell (genetics and neuroscience) http://www.gen.tcd.ie/mitchell/

Prof Redmond O’Connell (psychology and neuroscience) https://oconnell-lab.com/

Application process:
• Deadline for applications: 23:59 (GMT+1) 02/July/2020
• 2 page CV
• 1 page cover letter outlining your interests, relevant training to date and reasons for applying for this position.
• Names of 2 referees capable of commenting on your academic suitability for PhD research.
• Informal emails for more information should be directed to Prof Andrew Jackson [Email Address Removed]
• Formal applications should be made by email with subject header “CFF PhD” to Prof Andrew Jackson [Email Address Removed]
• Interviews will be conducted online via Zoom or MS Teams after shortlisting which will take place as quickly as possible after the deadline but will depend on the quantity of applications received.

COVID-19 statement. The ongoing challenges of COVID-19 remain, and we acknowledge that there are restrictions on the movement of individuals and populations both in Ireland and globally. The intended start date is 1 September 2020, but we are aware that this date may need to be changed owing to government and/or university restrictions. We are also aware that the preferred candidate may need to request extension to one of these later dates and we will engage with the preferred candidate to accommodate where possible any such required delayed start date.

Trinity is committed to employment and student policies, procedures and practices which do not discriminate on grounds such as gender, civil status, family status, age, disability, race, religious belief, sexual orientation or membership of the travelling community. On that basis we encourage and welcome talented people from all backgrounds to join our community. Trinity’s Diversity Statement can be viewed in full at https://www.tcd.ie/diversity-inclusion/diversity-statement.

Funding Notes

Eligibility and start date: The project will aim to start 1 September 2020. Funding is from Trinity College Dublin under the Provost's PhD Project Award Scheme and is for 4 years and comprises academic fees at either EU or non-EU rates and an annual stipend of €16,000. This PhD is open to both EU and non-EU applicants.


Healy, K., McNally, L., Ruxton, G.D., Cooper, N. & Jackson, A.L. 2013. Metabolic rate and body size are linked with perception of temporal information. Animal Behaviour, 86(4), 685-696 dos: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.06.018

Mitchell, K. 2018. Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are. (Chapter 7: Do You See What I See?). Princeton University Press. ISBN-13 978-0691173887.

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