What is in the Mind of a Good Navigator?
  • Crosspoint, Roland Levinsky Building

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Some people have a very good sense of direction whereas others very easily get lost. 

In this event, we showcased our current work within the School of Psychology exploring the skills that underlie everyday navigational abilities – from knowing which direction is north to learning a route in a new city. We invite you to hear about our work and have a go at our hands-on activities.

Navigation is a skill that we all rely upon, but it is rarely explored in the realm of popular science. Some people have a very good sense of direction; whereas others very easily get lost. In our project, we are recruiting a very large sample of participants, and exploring a wide range of navigational skills. This will enable us to ascertain what skills are necessary to be a good navigator, and how we can assist people who have difficulty (for example dementia sufferers). Our research employs a variety of techniques, including immersive virtual and tablet-based games.

This event was open to all. Contact tara.zaksaite@plymouth.ac.uk for any queries.

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Today's events

Biography: Tara Zaksaite

I am a Post-doctoral Research Fellow on an ESRC-funded project exploring and assisting difficulties with spatial navigation. As part of this project I am working with people with hydrocephalus and typical adults to examine the causes and correlates of strengths and difficulties with spatial navigation. My research interests broadly include attention, learning, and memory, including how these interact to affect decision-making. I am also interested in how these are influenced by systematic individual differences (for example in anxiety). 

I have completed my PhD at the University of Plymouth. This work was within the area of associative learning, exploring the mechanisms of learning; particularly how people learn about irrelevant information. I considered factors which influence this, including attention, uncertainty, and inhibition.

Biography: Dr Alastair Smith

Alastair is an Associate Professor and Associate Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth. He researches the cognitive and neural foundations of spatial behaviour, with a focus on search and navigation. Alastair has conducted studies in typical adults and children, as well as neurological patients (e.g. hemispatial neglect, hydrocephalus) and people with developmental conditions (e.g. Autism, Williams Syndrome). 

His work has employed a variety of techniques and paradigms, including virtual reality, GPS tracking, and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Current projects are funded by ESRC, EPSRC, and DSTL.

Biography: Rory Baxter

Rory is a PhD candidate in the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth. He is currently completing an EPSRC and DSTL funded studentship investigating whether navigational ability in a neuro-typical adult population can be improved. This project has led to the development of tasks that measure navigational ability in both immersive and desktop virtual reality, which will be utilised alongside both cognitive training and neuromodulation in an attempt to improve individuals’ navigational ability.

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