Exciting new vision research at UWE.

New research undertaken in a joint effort by UWE Biomedical Scientists in collaboration with the Psychology department will uncover if your eyes ‘have a mind of their own’. The research investigates tiny movements of the eye that you cannot intentionally control, which are called microsaccades and occur whilst (ironically) you are not trying to move your eyes at all – but stare at a fixed point. It is thought that these tiny movements stop your brain getting dis-interested in a still picture during visual fixation and maintain the attention of your visual cortex.

Credit: Anthony Harding
Credit: Anthony Harding

This project uses non-invasive electro-oculography or ‘EOG’ (pictured) where small skin surface electrodes measure the change in electric potential when you look left or right. The research has great importance in functional brain mapping studies, where techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) measure your brain’s activity to stimuli in the world around you. It is widely acknowledged in current functional brain imaging projects that eye movements contaminate the data, and thus need to be understood, measured and accounted for in future research. If this EOG data indicates the level to which eye movements contaminate neurological functional imaging, scientists may achieve their aim to improve the quality of pre-surgical functional mapping of the human brain.

Credit: Aston Brain Centre, Aston University, Birmingham
Credit: Aston Brain Centre, Aston University, Birmingham

During his placement at the Aston Brain Centre, Anthony Harding had the opportunity to lead his own studies by investigating how the human brain processes vision using EEG and magnetoencephalography (MEG), a similar technique to EOG which uses magnetic fields emitted from an individual’s head to measure neuronal activity within the brain. His final year project at UWE (measuring microsaccades of the eye) follows on from his previous research, which noted the same eye movement and its effect on neuroscientific data. He is a great advocate for taking a placement year, which he says has built his independent learning and professional workplace skills, but also given him insight into a career path the wishes to pursue and opportunities in postgraduate education. 

If you wish to find out more about the study or how to volunteer as a subject contact the Lead Investigator: Anthony2.Harding@live.uwe.ac.uk

By Anthony Harding