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PAM Group PhD Projects


We welcome enquiries from applicants who are interested in completing a PhD in the Perception, Attention and Memory Group. Below you will find details of specific projects and topic areas, along with contact names and email addresses. If you are interested in a particular project or topic, please contact one of us in the first instance for an informal discussion.

Exploring visual and cognitive correlates for “real world” task performance

Contact: Dr Andrew Mackenzie

The individual differences in performance within many “real world” tasks such as driving, sport, videogames, medical situations (e.g., trauma) can be large. Broadly, it would be the scope of the PhD project to identify possible individual differences in cognitive and performance expertise, why there might be these differences and, where possible, identify or develop tools that may assess or even train cognition within the task.  Current research in the lab is investigating the role of Situation Awareness, visual cognitive ability, and the neural correlates (using EEG) in performance across a range of tasks.  We use a variety of methods including eye tracking, driving simulation, video freeze-probe techniques, VR, EEG and field performance to target cognitive expertise. An example of recent work can be viewed in Mackenzie et al., (2021) “The Multiple Object Avoidance (MOA) task measures attention for action: Evidence from driving and sport.”

Please email to discuss potential projects within this field of applied research

Thinking outside the box: A healthy memory error in our scene representations

Contact: Dr Angharad Williams

Boundary extension is a fault in memory that happens to healthy people. When healthy people are asked to draw a scene from memory, they typically draw more background than they originally saw. Fascinatingly, patients with amnesia do this less frequently, so they are in fact more accurate than healthy people when remembering the borders of scenes. The aim of this project is to investigate the processes that contribute to the boundary extension phenomenon in healthy people, with possibilities to extend and compare the findings in older adult age groups and clinical populations. Please contact to discuss these ideas further.

Charitable giving and episodic future thinking

Contact: Dr Angharad Williams

The brain regions involved in remembering our past are also used when we imagine our future. Some previous work has considered how such episodic simulations impact on prosocial behaviour and our willingness to help others. Findings suggest that remembering and imagining scenes of helping a person in need increases intentions to help. However, the mechanisms underlying the impact of episodic simulation on charitable giving are unknown, and it is unclear how lasting such effects are. Understanding these mechanisms and harnessing them to encourage charitable giving would have real world consequences for refugees fleeing war and for those in need following climate crises. Please contact to discuss these ideas further.

Understanding human gaze behaviour; Using pupillometry as an attentional marker; eye tracking in VR environment

Contact: Dr Filipe Cristino

Although our perception of the world seems faultless, only a very small fraction of our eye has a considerably high resolution. At any one time, only a small patch of our visual field - roughly the size of a thumbnail at arm’s length - is sharply in focus and detailed. Thus, how we perceive and interact with the world depends primarily upon how, where, when we move our eyes (up to 4 times per seconds). Information gathered at a gaze location is used to construct our ‘perceived world’ and to perform or help with the task in hand (e.g. reading, walking, driving). Out of the hundreds of thousands of fixated locations chosen on a daily basis, many seem unrelated to the conscious goal, e.g. while making a cup of coffee in the kitchen we may fixate on task-relevant items (kettle, cup, spoon, sugar etc.), but we will also fixate on irrelevant items (a newspaper on the counter, dishes in the sink, the sky through the window, etc). Using fixational eye movements (pupillometry and microsacades), state of the art lab eye tracking and VR technology we aim to better quantify eye fixations on relevant and irrelevant items and understand why we make such fixations when carrying out a specific task, but also investigate the extent to which ‘irrelevant’ fixations may shape unconsciously our behaviour at a later stage.

Migraine and temporal integration – why is flicker such a problem?

Contact: Dr Louise O’Hare

People with migraine are particularly sensitive to visual stimulation before and during an attack, and some stimuli can even trigger migraine attacks in some individuals. In particular, flickering stimuli seem to be particularly problematic, and this could be due to how the migraine brain processes information over time. This study will investigate how those with migraine integrate sensory information over time, using tasks such as motion perception, and responses to repetitive stimuli.  This will help us understand fundamental differences in sensory processing of those with migraine compared to controls, and therefore help us better understand, and one day possibly prevent, one of the most prevalent neurological disorders. We welcome strong prospective candidates interested in laboratory work to develop our understanding of the neural basis of perceptual performance in those with migraine.

Wellbeing and motivation in over- and under-achieving children in Key Stage 2

Contacts: Dr Kate Roberts & Professor Clare Wood

Education policy has changed in recent years to emphasise inclusive education and a mastery approach to mathematics. This project will investigate how these changes impact on the wellbeing and motivation profiles of children who are over- or under-achieving in Key Stage 2.

The Wellbeing and Attitudes to Learning Survey will be used to assess students’ positivity, self-efficacy, motivation, resilience and persistence. The research will ask how these measures of wellbeing and learning attitudes are influenced by students’ current levels of achievement in reading and maths, cognitive ability, demographic factors, and any mismatch between the child’s ability and the teaching resources available to them.

We welcome enquiries from applicants who are interested in completing an PhD in this area.

Investigating audio-visual integration in people with hearing loss

Contacts: Dr Paula Stacey & Dr Chris Sumner

Hearing-impaired individuals receive important benefits from seeing the faces of talkers, especially in noisy listening situations. This project is interested in how much ‘visual speech’ benefit individuals receive in different listening situations. Including an assessment of audio-visual speech perception abilities will provide a superior estimate of the real-world benefits of hearing aids and cochlear implants compared with current methods. Projects can readily be tailored to suit students wishing to engage in empirical testing of clinical populations, or to suit highly numerate students interested in theory-driven study of the nature of audio-visual speech perception.

Providing multisensory support to improve older adults’ cognitive abilities

Contacts: Dr Kate Roberts & Dr Stephen Badham

With advancing healthcare and increased standards of living, the proportion of older adults in society is now higher than ever and is set to rise further over the coming decades. A key focus of research is to ensure that individuals maintain their cognitive abilities and quality of life into an extended old age. This studentship will explore whether age-related cognitive deficits can be alleviated by presenting information in more than one sensory modality, to compensate for deficits in hearing and vision. When vision and hearing are poor, the additional effort required to perceive the stimuli can take up cognitive resources that might otherwise have been used to perform the cognitive task. Therefore, presenting multisensory stimuli can potentially improve cognitive performance by facilitating perception. This project will investigate how cognitive abilities are affected by multisensory stimuli, in order to help older adults improve their quality of life and retain independence in old age.