Institute of Information Systems
University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland, Sierre (HES-SO)
3960 Sierre, Switzerland
email: paweljer.matusz at hevs.ch
The Laboratory for Investigative Neurophysiology (LINE)
Department of Radiology, Centre of Research in Radiology RC7
University Hospital Centre and University of Lausanne
rue du Bugnon 46, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland
email: pawel.matusz at chuv.ch
- Brain & cognitive mechanisms governing top-down attentional control of low-level and higher-level visual (e.g. reading, basic maths) functions in healthy and atypical populations in naturalistic environments across the lifespan
- Sensation, functional brain organisation and cognitive functions engaged by unisensory and multisensory information, their development and malleability by experience
- Multi-modal big data analysis in the service of education and paediatric disorder diagnosis and rehabilitation
- EEG, Event-related potientials (ERPs) and electrical neuroimaging
- New avenues for influencing brain plasticity
Our ability to behave effectively in everyday situations is critically dependent on our abilities to promote the processing of these objects that match our current behavioural goals and suppress those objects that do not match those goals, processes jointly called “selective attention”. The last decades have provided important advances in terms of brain and cognitive mechanisms orchestrating selective attention as well as their role in enhancing perception and in supporting the learning of new information. However, this knowledge might be limited to purely visual settings where it’s been obtained, leaving unclear both the underlying mechanisms as well as the extent of influence of selective attention processes in naturalistic environments that are naturally multisensory (i.e., objects stimulate multiple senses at once). Filling out these lacks in knowledge is perhaps the most important for supporting education and rehabilitation of sensory, learning and other disorders.
We have demonstrated that adult attention is captured more strongly by audiovisual than visual stimuli, which challenges the traditional models of selective attention. Crucially, we have also shown that children pay attention to multisensory stimuli differently than adults, with object category familiarity playing likely a crucial role in how such stimuli are attended. In this domain, we have been recently demonstrating the added value of combining behavioural measurements with the advanced analyses of the EEG (electroencephalogram) developed first in the 1980s here in Switzerland and known as electrical neuroimaging. Specifically, we have clarified the attentional control brain mechanisms engaged by visual and multisensory inputs, how they interact with age and the individual’s experience as well as their role in scaffolding the learning of new object categories, such as of letters or Arabic numerals.
In the clinical domain, electrical neuroimaging of EEG offers an important complementary line of evidence to falsify one’s hypotheses about the integrity of sensory/perceptual and/or cognitive functions. We have been demonstrating that these benefits might be especially invaluable in paediatric populations in which behavioural tests might not yet provide reliable data, as in young children with cerebral palsy, or those in which task compliance is simply impossible, as in full-term and especially pre-term born infants, where we’ve shown the facilitatory and exacerbating effects of positive and negative early experiences in the neonatal intensive-care units, respectively.
We are now applying our verified developmental neuroscientific approach to better understand the whole extent of nervous system deficits characterising paediatric amblyopia (“lazy/ crossed eye”) and which of the levels plays the most important role in supporting the recovery of basic and functional vision skills as a result of potential novel interventions involving VR-based games.
GAMB: Understanding the role of attention in visual rehabilitation: Amblyopia as a model