Perceptual learning refers to how experience can change the way we perceive sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch. Examples abound: music training improves our ability to discern tones; experience with food and wines can refine our pallet, and with years of training radiologists learn to save lives by discerning subtle details of images that escape the notice of untrained viewers. Research into perceptual learning gives fundamental mechanisms of learning and brain processes, and how knowledge of perceptual learning can be used to develop more effective training approaches for those requiring expert perceptual skills or rehabilitation (such as individuals with poor vision).
Our research address numerous aspects of perceptual learning including:
- Computational models of perceptual learning
- Understanding neural bases of perceptual learning
- Understanding perceptual learning across sensory systems
- Using perceptual learning to ameliorate low vision
- Vision improvement in Athletes
Interactions Between Different Learning Processes
Learning is not a simple singular process. Even in the simplest task learning takes place at multiple levels of complexity and involves different learning processes. For example, Statistical Learning, Categorical Learning, Reinforcement Learning, etc, are often thought of separate processes. These are typically researched and modelled by different researchers and academic disciplines, each having their own intellectual and modelling frameworks. We embrace a holistic approach to learning that integrates intellectual frameworks, models, and experimental approaches across disciplines to understand learning from a more holistic perspective.
- Mechanisms of Statistical Learning
- Multisensory Learning Processes
- Relationships between Working Memory and Perceptual Learning
- Brain Training
Understanding Central Auditory Processing Deficits
Central auditory evaluation.- Here we use the knowledge generated in recent years in the context of psychophysics and neuroscience to develop effective diagnostic tools of central auditory function. We have noted that the clinician toolbox concentrates in peripheral evaluation and is devoid of a resource that would allow evaluation of central processes.
This work addresses an important problem today: some people with normal audiograms still report difficulties understanding language under noisy (real life) conditions. Our aim with this research is to provide a detailed explanation of the “supra-threshold” deficits that people so often report to their clinicians.
- Understanding different profiles of central auditory processing
- Hearing loss with aging
- Hearing loss associated with brain injury
- Auditory changes associated with neurodiversity
Understanding Low Vision
Studying how the brain copes with the loss of sensory input loss can offer a privileged access to understand the functioning of the healthy brain and also help develop clinical interventions in patients suffering from vision loss. Alongside the studies on healthy population, we conduct research in individuals suffering from Macular Degeneration (MD), Amblyopia, Dyslexia, Schizophrenia, mTBI, Presbyopia and other age-related declines, to understand the profile of both visual and cognitive strengths and weaknesses across individuals as well as to develop intervention approaches that may ameliorate some of these conditions.
- Understanding perceptual restructuring after vision loss
- Understanding different profiles of central vision loss
- Visual changes associated with neurodiversity
- Vision training in ADHD, ASD and Schizophrenia
- Vision training in AMD, Amblyopia, and Presbyopia
Brain training aims to enhance cognitive processes such as perception, motor control, memory and decision making. Emerging research demonstrates that such cognitive processes can be trained, leading to improvements in everyday functioning that depend on these processes.
Brain training is a rich and exciting field that delves into the limits of the human brain and has potential to benefit everyone’s lives. However, while brain training shows promise, it has also sparked controversy as results are mixed across studies, and because findings are often sensationalized with an increasing number of commercial brain training products. We aim to overcome these issues by conducting research that clarifies what techniques show the most promise to uncover the ingredients that most consistently lead to real world benefits.
- Training Hearing, Vision, Working Memory, Cognitive Control, Executive Function, etc
- Understanding mediators and moderators of cognitive training
- Cognitive training in older adults
- Cognitive rehabilitation for those with cognitive impairments
- Cognitive training for enhancement
The Gamification Project is a series of studies designed to examine the effects of including certain game elements in cognitive training tasks. The purpose is to systematically determine which elements of games can increase motivation, training performance, and transfer of training to other tasks. The game elements selected for research are supported by a theoretical framework, informed by perceptual learning and prior research (Deveau et al., 2015). For Recollect, which trains working memory, there are multiple lines of research on gamification. One includes the creation of an achievement system to give participants goals to work towards for each level of gameplay, as well as overall achievements to work towards that unlock new content. Players receive positive reinforcement for performing well enough to complete their goals in the form of being awarded medals and progression, which may improve learning. Another line of research involves increasing the diversity of stimuli that participants train on, which research suggests leads to stronger transfer of learning to other tasks.
Understanding Brain Systems
The locus coeruleus (LC) circuit is the primary source of norepinephrine (NE) for most brain regions, with LC neurons projecting broadly, and largely non-specifically through-out the brain. The integrity of LC neurons is hypothesized to mediate the preservation of cognitive abilities during normal aging whereas neuronal loss in LC occurs in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The LC circuit is also implicated in many attention- and anxiety-related disorders (e.g., ADHD, PTSD). However, the underlying neuronal mechanism are not understood, which prevents us from developing therapeutic methods targeted at the LC. We propose a research plan that is designed to give rise to a more complete LC circuit model that allows us to address, firstly, how the LC circuit is bi-directionally coupled to individual brain areas involved in perception, attention, and decision processes, and secondly, how it moderates activity in each of these processes.