Perception & Action
Our research encompasses a wide range of topics related to human perception, action and their coupling. This work extends from fundamental (with the aim of understanding the principles underlying human perception and action) to applied (utilising fundamental knowledge to improve health and well-being across the lifespan, and enhance functional capacity in multiple domains).
We have access to an equivalent of 250 square metres of lab space housing extensive facilities for behavioural and neurophysiological studies. These include: multiple 3D motion tracking systems; equipment for electromyography (EMG); functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS); transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS); electroencephalography (EEG); posturography (Balance Master); sound-synthesis gait analysis (force-plates); and a range of stimulus presentation systems. Uniquely, we have a 6m x 23m multi-purpose re-configurable lab space that is equipped with systems for the generation of immersive VR environments. Off-site, we have access to commercial services for magnetic resonance imaging.
The current research interests of the group include: the restoration of upper limb function in stroke survivors; the perception of duration/time of visual events; goalkeeper movements during free kicks; the neural basis of interception; balance control across the lifespan and in clinical populations; movement sonification strategies for visually impaired people; diagnostic biomarkers for motor neurone disease; the neural basis of individual differences in the preservation of cognitive and motor function in later life; and skill acquisition in musicians.
Developping methods to maintain and restore cognitive and movement function in later life with a specific emphasis upon the rehabilitation of upper limb function in stroke survivors, including the development and therapeutic evaluation of assistive devices. I am also involved in the generation of diagnostic biomarkers for motor neurone disease.
Recent vision research has been in the areas of motion transparency, interactions between direction sensitive mechanisms, neural mechanisms underlying adaptation in the human visual system, and local & global motion processing. My current research focuses on time perception, as well as investigating the role of laughter in social interaction.
My research focuses on eye-hand coordination for movements to stationary objects (such as picking up a cup of coffee) as well as moving objects (such as catching and hitting movements). I study these topics both at a fundamental level (e.g., how sensory information is transformed by the brain into adequate motor commands) as well as applied level (e.g., eye-hand coordination in sports, human-robot interactions).
Research in my lab focuses on the control of human movement and standing balance over the lifespan. Our goal is to understand the mechanisms of posture and balance and to reduce fall accidents over the lifespan. We assess posture and balance in healthy young and older adults, in people with Parkinson’s disease and Autism Spectrum Disorder, using analysis of body movement, brain stimulation and brain imaging techniques.
What role does our sense of sound play in coordinating movements? My research has applications in overcoming movement challenges, such as using rhythmic sounds to help walking for people with Parkinson’s disease, or developing sound-based guides for people with visual impairments.
The SMART Arm is a device developed to help stroke survivors compensate for the neural damage that follows stroke. It is used to re-establish normal arm and hand function, by recoding through practice, neural pathways that control the movements that are essential for independent daily living. The device provides physical and motivational support during rehabilitation, enabling the stroke survivor to recover faster and to reach a level of movement function that is useful to them in their daily lives. The SMART Arm also enables the stroke survivor to work independently, allowing them to continue to drive their own long-term recovery.
SMART Arm Pty Ltd was launched in July 2012 to further develop, manufacture and market the technology. The company is currently raising funds to complete the transition of the system through a Phase 1 controlled release. A provisional patent for the invention was filed in September 2016. Pre-commercial prototypes have been in use for several years in two clinical stroke units located in Queensland, Australia. Several hundred patients have used the devices. Funds for the purchase of further units have already been raised by a charitable organisation based in Southern Queensland.
Roberta Shepherd and Janet Carr, authors of ‘Neurological Rehabilitation: Optimising Motor Performance included the device, with photographs, in their widely used text. It is compulsory in all Australian Physiotherapy programs, and in those of many other countries. It is used in most Departments of Rehabilitation. Further evidence of impact upon clinical training is indicated by the extensive coverage extended to the SMART Arm – including imbedded video, photographs, and illustrations of clinical outcomes, in Kleim, J. A. (2012). Neural plasticity: foundations for neurorehabilitation. TANAS, Scottsdale.
Dr Joost Dessing’s research in elite sports uses custom virtual reality-based simulators for various sports, such as football, rugby and cricket. A key line of investigation focuses on the performance of goalkeepers in football during free kick scenarios.
The group has used their virtual reality-based goalkeeping simulator to address many scientific and practical questions. The research showed that when a defending wall obstructs the goalkeeper’s vision in free kick scenarios it negatively affects the goalkeeper’s performance. This result should motivate goalkeepers and trainers to critically evaluate the balance between benefits and downsides of placing the wall—possibly with the aid of a virtual reality goalkeeping simulator—and consider omitting it in extreme cases. Another line of investigation focused on how attacking rugby players perceive opportunities–passable gaps between defenders–and how defending rugby players perceive or are tricked by deceptive passing movements of attackers. These applications readily extend to penalty kick scenarios, which Dr Dessing is pursuing in his current work.
Dr Doumas's work focuses on postural control in healthy ageing and clinical populations with the aim to contribute to fall prevention. We are currently working on fall prevention with the local community of people with Parkinson’s (PwP) over 50% of whom fall at least once a year. We use Dance for PD®, the most popular dance programme for PwP, which is performed in 28 countries, with 32 classes in the UK. The program is already engaging thousands of PwP, however, there is little research investigating its efficacy.
Our research investigates Dance for PD’s effectiveness in improving balance, mobility, mental health, and quality of life by conducting two randomized controlled trials. The project is run by Anna Carapellotti, PhD student and Dance for PD instructor.
This research is designed with impact and community engagement at its core. In January 2018, we won the Parkinson’s UK Research Involvement Award, which allowed us to engage with the local community, conduct a survey, host a focus group, and form an advisory group involving PwP.
We are currently running weekly dance classes for PwP which show acute and long term improvement in balance, mobility and quality of life in PwP.
Dance with Parkinson's
This video provides more information on the Dance with Parkinson's research project
Understanding how sound can help with the coordination of movement has impact for different skill learning and rehabilitation applications. My research includes: studying coordination in children with visual impairments and using interactive sounds to help them move better; transforming golf swing movements into sound so that learners can hear and practice better technique; helping people with Parkinson’s disease walk more stably using rhythmic sounds as guides.
“Our collaboration with Queen’s has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of children living with sight loss, right from birth. The data that the research provides will be used to inform our work with children and young people, helping us to provide more targeted support for children with sight loss and their families.”
Head of Mobility Services at Guide Dogs NI
Some of our researchers contribute to the research conducted within QUB’s Pioneer Research Programme Intelligent Automated Manufacturing Systems (i-AMS), focusing on human-robot interactions and user interface testing.
The Centre has state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing technology demonstration facilities with a particular focus on machining, robotic welding, AR/VR and cooperative robotics, and is able to work across the full TRL spectrum. i-AMS has an ethos of industry collaboration and industry informed research, building on a 50 year track record of supporting industry in R&D and QUB’s position as the UK leader in knowledge transfer partnerships, and is keen to work with industry across all sectors to drive forward advanced manufacturing.
Our Science In Motion Lab (SIM) lab is a 6m x 23m multi-purpose, re-configurable lab space that houses a large range of state-of-the art movement science technologies, such as a flexible 20 camera Qualysis 3D motion tracking system, multiple virtual reality suites (Vive Pro [wireless], Oculus Rift – controlled through Unity), an Xsens motion tracking system, a large projection screen, and 2 AMTI force plates.
Within this lab we conduct both fundamental and applied research into human perception and action, and we contribute to applications of this research in real-life situations (e.g., development of cutting edge training and intervention programmes), as well as to a range of outreach activities.
The School of Psychology is pleased to work with the following collaborators in our research
- Dr Johann Issartel – Dublin City University
- Dr Chris Benton – University of Bristol
- Professor Julie Harris – University of St Andrews
- Professor Paul Hibbard – University of Essex
- Professor Rose Anne Kenny – Trinity College Dublin
- Professor Orla Hardiman – Trinity College Dublin
- Dr. Alexander Leemans - University Medical Center Utrecht
- Dr. Timothy Carroll – University of Queensland
- Professor Sandra Brauer – University of Queensland
- Dr. Ruth Barker – James Cook University
- Dr. Kathryn Hayward – University of Queensland
- Dr. David Lloyd – University of Queensland
- Dr. David Bolton – Arizona State University
- Dr. Kathy Ruddy – Trinity College Dublin
- Dr. Bahman Nasseroleslami – Trinity College Dublin
- Dr. Alison Buick - BrainWaveBank Ltd
- Dr Alan Wing – University of Birmingham
- Dr Chesney Craig – Manchester Metropolitan University
- Dr William Young – Brunel University
- Dr Luis A. Teixeira – University of Sao Paulo
- Dr Maayan Agmon – Uiniversity of Haifa
- Prof. Vassilia Hatzitaki – Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
- Dr Daniel J. Goble – Oakland University
- Dr Ralf Th. Krampe – KU Leuven
- Professor Sile O'Modhrain - University of Michigan
- Professor Paola Cesari - University of Verona
- Dr Lorena Lobo - Open University Madrid
- Professor David Travieso - Autonomous University of Madrid
- Professor David Jacobs - Autonomous University of Madrid