The Cognition and Behaviour Laboratory

Cognition is defined as the processing of thoughts and in psychological terms is referred to as the processing of information.

Behaviour refers to an individual’s actions and reactions that are displayed or exhibited in relation to their surroundings or environment.

Unlocking the complexity of the human mind

Cognitive and behavioural testing lies at the very foundation of contemporary psychological and functional neuroimaging research. Almost all assays of human psychological performance, from visual perception through to action production, depend on the specification of sensitive behavioural tasks from which empirical data can be derived. These data then allow us to construct theories about the functional architecture of the human mind. 


Essential skills to navigate daily life

Spatial navigation is a fundamental component of our daily lives, whether we are retracing a familiar journey to work, or exploring a city that we are visiting for the first time. Although it may appear to require little effort at times, effective navigation requires a complex synthesis of cognitive abilities, including the ability to attend to useful cues in the world around you, and a faculty to store that information in memory for later retrieval.

Difficulty with one or more of these processes can, therefore, impair daily wayfinding, which can take a great toll on the quality of life, psychological well-being, and employability.

Investigating causes of navigational impairment

Cognitive and Behavioural Laboratory Lead, Dr Alastair Smith, Associate Professor researches human spatial behaviour with a particular focus on navigational skills. His interest in how the underlying processes change over the lifespan, from development through to age-related decline is complemented by his study into how navigation can be impaired in atypical circumstances, such as after brain injury or in developmental conditions.


A spotlight on hydrocephalus

Alastair currently holds an Economic and Social Research Council grant to study the basis of navigational impairment in people with hydrocephalus, a common condition associated with an excess of fluid in the brain. 

Many people from this population are anecdotally known to have great difficulty with navigation although, to date, scientists have not characterised the underlying cognitive abilities responsible.

This project will provide a comprehensive examination of multiple components of everyday navigational function in patients and will relate performance to individual cognitive profiles (e.g. learning, memory, spatial abilities). 

It will also explore the effectiveness of tailored interventions to support people experiencing difficulty.

We are currently exploring whether navigational skills can be improved in typical adults, thanks to a related Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory-funded Industrial Cooperative Awards in Science & Technology studentship. 

This approach uses a combination of immersive virtual reality and transcranial direct current stimulation to the brain.


Research expertise

Lab lead: Dr Alastair Smith, Associate Professor in Psychology

Other research in this lab will be carried out by
Professor Stephen Hall, Dr Matt Roser, Dr Elsa Fourangan, Dr Giorgio Ganis and Professor Jonathan Marsden.

Key publications

Buckley MG, Haselgrove M & Smith AD 2015 'The developmental trajectory of intramaze and extramaze landmark biases in spatial navigation: An unexpected journey' Developmental Psychology, 51, (6), 771-791.

Smith AD 2015 'Spatial navigation in autism spectrum disorders: a critical review' Frontiers in Psychology, 6.

Buckley MG & Smith AD 2013 'Evidence for spatial navigational impairments in hydrocephalus patients without spina bifida' Brain and Cognition 83, (1) 132-141

Pellicano E, Smith AD, Cristino F, Hood BM, Briscoe J & Gilchrist ID 2010 'Children with autism are neither systematic nor optimal foragers' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, (1) 421-426

Smith AD, Gilchrist ID, Hood B, Tassabehji M & Karmiloff-Smith A 2009 'Inefficient Search of Large-Scale Space in Williams Syndrome: Further Insights on the Role of LIMK1 Deletion in Deficits of Spatial Cognition' Perception 38, (5) 694-701

Smith AD, Gilchrist ID, Cater K, Ikram N, Nott K & Hood BM 2008 'Reorientation in the real world: The development of landmark use and integration in a natural environment' Cognition 107, (3) 1102-1111.

Amick, M. M., Schendan, H. E., Ganis, G., & Cronin-Golomb, A. (2006). Frontostriatal circuits are necessary for visuomotor transformation: mental rotation in Parkinson's disease. Neuropsychologia, 44(3), 339-349.

Andrade, J., May, J., Deeprose, C., Baugh, S. J., & Ganis, G. (2014). Assessing vividness of mental imagery: The Plymouth Sensory Imagery Questionnaire. Br J Psychol, 105(4), 547-563.

Borst, G., Ganis, G., Thompson, W. L., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2012). Representations in mental imagery and working memory: evidence from different types of visual masks. Mem Cognit, 40(2), 204-217.

Briazu, R. A., Walsh, C. R., Deeprose, C., & Ganis, G. (2017). Undoing the past in order to lie in the present: Counterfactual thinking and deceptive communication. Cognition, 161, 66-73.

Casco, C., & Ganis, G. (1999). Parallel search for conjunctions with stimuli in apparent motion. Perception, 28(1), 89-108.

Francis, K. B., Gummerum, M., Ganis, G., Howard, I. S., & Terbeck, S. (2018). Virtual morality in the helping professions: Simulated action and resilience. Br J Psychol, 109(3), 442-465.

Francis, K. B., Gummerum, M., Ganis, G., Howard, I. S., & Terbeck, S. (2019). Alcohol, empathy, and morality: acute effects of alcohol consumption on affective empathy and moral decision-making. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 236(12), 3477-3496.

Francis, K. B., Howard, C., Howard, I. S., Gummerum, M., Ganis, G., Anderson, G., & Terbeck, S. (2016). Virtual Morality: Transitioning from Moral Judgment to Moral Action? PLoS One, 11(10), e0164374.

Francis, K. B., Terbeck, S., Briazu, R. A., Haines, A., Gummerum, M., Ganis, G., & Howard, I. S. (2017). Simulating Moral Actions: An Investigation of Personal Force in Virtual Moral Dilemmas. Sci Rep, 7(1), 13954.

Ganis, G., & Patnaik, P. (2009). Detecting concealed knowledge using a novel attentional blink paradigm. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback, 34(3), 189-196.

Ganis, G., & Schendan, H. E. (2011). Visual imagery. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci, 2(3), 239-252.

Ganis, G., Thompson, W. L., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2004). Brain areas underlying visual mental imagery and visual perception: an fMRI study. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res, 20(2), 226-241.

Hsu, C. W., Begliomini, C., Dall'Acqua, T., & Ganis, G. (2019). The effect of mental countermeasures on neuroimaging-based concealed information tests. Hum Brain Mapp, 40(10), 2899-2916.

Kosslyn, S. M., Ganis, G., & Thompson, W. L. (2001). Neural foundations of imagery. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2(9), 635-642.

Kosslyn, S. M., Ganis, G., & Thompson, W. L. (2003). Mental imagery: against the nihilistic hypothesis. Trends Cogn Sci, 7(3), 109-111.

Mast, F. W., Ganis, G., Christie, S., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2003). Four types of visual mental imagery processing in upright and tilted observers. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res, 17(2), 238-247.

Ward, E., Ganis, G., & Bach, P. (2019). Spontaneous Vicarious Perception of the Content of Another's Visual Perspective. Curr Biol, 29(5), 874-880 e874.

Wright, R., Thompson, W. L., Ganis, G., Newcombe, N. S., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2008). Training generalized spatial skills. Psychon Bull Rev, 15(4), 763-771.

Roser, M.E., Fiser, J., Aslin, R.N., McKenzie, B., & Zahra, D. (2015). Enhanced visual statistical learning in adults with autism. Neurospychology, 29(2), 163-72.

Trippas, D., Verde, M. F., Handley, S. J., Roser, M. E., McNair, N. A., & Evans, J. S. B. (2014). Modeling causal conditional reasoning data using SDT: caveats and new insights. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 217.

Linnet, E. & Roser, M.E. (2012). Age-related differences in interhemispheric visuo-motor integration measured by the redundant target effect. Psychology and Aging, 27(2), 399-409.

Roser, M.E., Fiser, J., Aslin, R.N., & Gazzaniga, M.S. (2011). Right hemisphere dominance in visual statistical learning. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 5: 1088-1099.

Lambert, A., Roser, M.E., Wells, I., & Heffer, C. (2006). The spatial correspondence hypothesis and orienting in response to central and peripheral spatial cues. Visual Cognition, 13, 65-88.

Roser, M.E., Fiser, J., Aslin, R.N., & Gazzaniga, M.S. (2011). Right hemisphere dominance in visual statistical learning. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 5: 1088-1099.

Roser, M.E., Fugelsang, J.A., Dunbar, K.N., Corballis, P.M., & Gazzaniga, M.S. (2005). Dissociating causal perception and causal inference in the brain. Neuropsychology, 19, 591-602.

Prokic E., Woodhall, GL, Williams AC, Stanford IM,, Hall SD. (2019). Bradykinesia is driven by cumulative beta power during continuous movement and alleviated by GABAergic modulation in Parkinson’s disease. Frontiers in Neurology 10: 1298. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2019.01298.

Hall SD, Prokic EJ, McAllister CJ, Ronnqvist KC, Williams AC, Witton C, Woodhall GL, Stanford IM.(2014). GABA-mediated changes in inter-hemispheric beta frequency activity in early-stage Parkinson’s disease. Neuroscience 281: 68-76.

Hall SD, Yamawaki N, Fisher AE, Clauss RP, Woodhall GL & Stanford IM. (2010). Desynchronisation of pathological low-frequency brain activity by the hypnotic drug zolpidem. Clinical Neurophysiology. 121(4): 549-55.

 

Enhancing research through BRIC

The School of Psychology is currently leading the way in the application of many sophisticated experimental methods, including immersive virtual reality and human/robot interaction. This expertise, combined with state-of-the-art facilities, will provide a cutting-edge toolbox for any research undertaken through BRIC.

“My work will be immeasurably improved by the greater degree of collaboration and opportunity afforded by the Brain Research & Imaging Centre. This will be complemented by a comprehensive and complementary armoury of state-of-the-art methods.” 

Dr Alastair Smith