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How do we use visual sense to guide behaviour?

The Bristol Vision Institute logo

The Bristol Vision Institute logo

Press release issued: 24 November 2009

A team of researchers at Bristol University’s Bristol Vision Institute (BVI) has been awarded a £390,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust to establish a joint research facility.

Humans are highly visually driven animals.  How people perceive the visual world around them and how they use their visual sense to guide behaviour will be explored, thanks to a £390,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust.

A team of researchers at Bristol University’s Bristol Vision Institute (BVI) has been awarded the grant to establish a joint research facility.

One of the main research aims of BVI is to study how motor behaviour such as, locomotion and eye-hand co-ordination, is controlled by visual information.  Achieving a level of realism and control in such research requires extensive facilities for real-time visual stimulus and behavioural measurements.

Dr Casimir Ludwig, the project’s principal investigator, said: “Our aim is to create a state-of-the-art facility in which we can put humans in an artificial visual “world” and measure consequent motor behaviour in real-time.  This is an essential step for vision science.”

The new facility will include a 12-camera motion capture system for fast and accurate measurement of position and movement of body segments in 3D space.  A treadmill with integrated force platform will be used to measure the biomechanical response to visual stimulation. 

In addition, the researchers will need to know an observer’s point of gaze in order to determine whether and what visual signals have been picked up.  A mobile eye tracker will be used, so that participants can move freely within their environment.  The treadmill will be surrounded by a group of screens used for stereo projection of a visual scene, together with a head-mounted display (HMD) to provide a ‘richer’ visual environment.

Once established, the new laboratory will oversee a diverse range of collaborative research projects, such as:

  • Assessments of the relationship between movement, attention and vision in children with cerebral visual impairment;
  • The connection between posture and gait with visual processing in dementia;
  • The role of vision in controlling movement;
  • Human-structure interactions.

Professor David Bull, Director of BVI, added: “Vision is studied by a wide range of experts including physiologists, psychologists, biologists, engineers and computer scientists. Only by combining methods from these varied disciplines can we hope to get a full understanding of the complex underlying issues.”

The team of academics who will lead the research include: Dr Casimir Ludwig, EPSRC Advanced Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology; Dr J Burn, Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Anatomy; Dr Ute Leonards, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Experimental Psychology and David Bull, Professor of Signal Processing in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.


Further information

The Wellcome Trust has awarded the two-year grant of £390,438 to the Bristol Vision Institute Laboratory at the University of Bristol. The grant will start on 1 December 2009.

The Bristol Vision Institute (BVI) represents a grouping of 36 permanent academic staff and 60 researchers from 14 departments working on vision and imaging research, and its applications. The scale of this collaboration is unique in Europe and has unequalled potential for progressing vision research.

BVI brings together scientists from a range of academic disciplines including Biological Sciences, Experimental Psychology, Computer Science, Electronic Engineering, Mathematics, Anatomy, together with external partners such as the Bristol Eye Hospital. There are also strong links with the new Wolfson supported, Clinical Research and Imaging Centre, which is a collaboration between the University and the local healthcare trust.

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.

Please contact Joanne Fryer for further information.
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