Research in Dr. Spering’s lab focuses on the interaction between vision, cognition and movement. Dr. Spering uses eye movements as a model system to understand human sensorimotor control and cognitive abilities such as decision making or memory. Her methodological approach involves a combination of behavioural techniques such as psychophysics, eye tracking and motion capture, as well as theoretical work and clinical models. Her basic research has many practical applications. For instance, a type of eye movement known as smooth pursuit is used to stabilize gaze on a moving object of interest and critically assists vision. Deficits in the perception of visual motion and the pursuit tracking of moving objects have been described in many conditions like Parkinson’s disease or schizophrenia. These eye movements can be used as sensitive indicators of disease processes. Funded by a PWIAS Wall Solutions grant, her lab is developing technology for eye-movement-aided diagnosis of motion perception deficits. She also collaborates with colleagues at the BC Center for Gambling Research, with clinicians in the Department of Medicine – Neurology, and with the UBC Baseball team. More details on her research and community outreach can be found here: http://visualcognition.ca/spering
Primary Recipient Awards
Developing a Portable Dynamic Vision Test for the Aging Population
Principal Investigators: Dr. Miriam Spering, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, UBC; Dr. Dinesh Pai, Department of Computer Science, UBC
Partner Organization: Mary-Lou Jackson, Vision Rehabilitation Program, Vancouver General Hospital
Vision loss among the elderly is a multidimensional challenge and a major health care problem. In Canada, the direct cost of vision loss is the highest of any disease category. Regular eye examinations are important to help correct visual acuity, and to prevent and treat eye diseases. However, standard vision tests do not measure sensitivity to moving objects, an ability that is critical for everyday tasks such as driving. Dynamic vision tests exist in the research laboratory, but they are lengthy and complicated, and not suitable for use in older adults. We will develop new technology enabling easy and quick assessment of motion sensitivity, using instinctive eye movement responses. This test will be accessible to the aging population regardless of language ability, cognitive, or motor deficits. It will promote vision health literacy, and empower users to be proactive about vision health, thereby boosting an active lifestyle, increasing mobility, and independence.
Co-Principal Investigator Awards