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NSF Selects Visuomotor Control Lab Project as Featured Work
(Dec 7, 2010)
US News and World Report publishes descriptions of NSF projects in the Science section of their website. This site currently features the Visuomotor Control Lab project "Top-Down Factors for Eye Movements and Perception", a research collaboration between SJSU and the Human-Systems Integration Division at NASA Ames. Funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), this project employs three SJSU undergraduates with Psychology majors as research assistants, giving these students access to specialized facilities and providing them with hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) training in Human Performance measurement and Human Factors research. This project is one of many that leverage personnel and facilities to advance common educational and research goals of both institutions and strengthen the ongoing relationship between SJSU and NASA Ames.

The scientific objective of the project is to investigate the mechanisms by which cognitive knowledge and expectations influences the perceptual processing underlying motor actions during the decision-making process in humans. We use eye movements as a window into the brain's visual processing (Liston and Stone, 2008). Our work has shown that so-called top-down factors (such as prior information and reward) alter the way that humans actually perceive the display information used in sensorimotor tasks. For example, when you expect the target on the right-hand side to be brighter or if you expect a bigger reward for choosing the right-hand target, these expectations change the way the brain processes brightness cues on that side such that small differences in perceived brightness are magnified. Interestingly, this brain mechanism, which is similar to the economic concept of "value" (i.e., prior probability x reward magnitude), actively shapes motor choice behavior by shaping the underlying perception driving this behavior in an effort to maximize overall rewards. The goal is for the computational model of human visual decision-making derived from our data ultimately to contribute toward NASA's ability to better predict the effect of design trade-offs in displays and training on the visuomotor performance of astronauts and pilots.

Publication Link-

Liston D, Stone L (2008) Effects of prior information and reward on oculomotor and perceptual choices. The Journal of Neuroscience. 28:13866-13875
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Last Updated: March 18, 2024