Research
Photo of two birds overlaid with a typical set of eye movements
Our perception is of a seamless visual world, but in reality a sharp image is available only at the very centre of gaze. Accurately planned eye movements are vital to explore our visual environment.

Why do we make errors in perception, in memory, and in our actions? Variability and uncertainty are fundamental aspects of human behaviour, which worsen with advancing age or neurological disease. In the lab we measure these factors using visual psychophysics and memory tasks, eye tracking and limb motion-tracking. Then, using mathematical models and computer simulations, we develop and test hypotheses about the underlying brain mechanisms.

One focus of the lab is on visual memory. Our ability to remember what we have seen is surprisingly limited: rather than a fixed capacity on how many objects we can remember, our work shows that the limit is on the resolution with which visual information can be maintained. Visual memory acts like a resource that can be allocated to important information in our environment: we investigate how this resource is distributed between features of the visual scene and how it is updated when we move our eyes.

Plots of movement paths showing increasing scatter from left to right
Reaching movements to a remembered target. Increasing the number of locations held in memory at one time (from left to right; other targets not shown) results in increasing variability in recall.
In everyday life, we shift our gaze several times per second in order to extract detailed information from the world around us. These movements represent a simple case of exploration and decision-making behaviour. A second focus of our research is to understand the processes that decide where, when and in what order eye movements are directed.
University of Cambridge

In the brain, information about our environment and our planned actions is represented in the electrical activity of neurons. Some of the most recent work in the lab involves developing computational models of encoding and decoding of neural activity that explain aspects of human perception and behaviour.

News

October 2016
New paper in eLife: activity in angular gyrus predicts the precision of episodic memories [paper] [blog post] [The Atlantic]

June 2016
Code is now available for our population coding model of working memory errors [paper] [code]

January 2016
New non-parametric methods for investigating swap errors in memory tasks [paper] [code]

January 2016
David Aagten-Murphy joins the lab from LMU Munich

December 2015
Sebastian Schneegans and Ben Dowding join the team

October 2015
The lab has moved to the University of Cambridge, Department of Psychology

July 2015
Opinion paper in TICS: "Spikes Not Slots" responsible for working memory limitations [pdf]

April 2015
Paul Bays awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in Basic Biomedical Science

January 2015
Investigating the theoretical basis of misbinding in working memory, in collaboration with Loic Matthey and Peter Dayan [pdf]

December 2014
EyeSearch [link] is a web-based therapy for patients with visual disorders, developed in collaboration with Alex Leff and Masud Husain — our new paper [pdf] reports benefits for visual search ability in hemianopic patients

November 2014
Paul and Leonie at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington DC — Leonie's poster: "Are there shared resources for motor planning?" [details]

March 2014
New article in Journal of Neuroscience [pdf]: errors in short-term memory are explained by noise in neural activity

February 2014
Review paper on changing concepts of working memory [pdf] in Nature Neuroscience

September 2013
Paul Bays visiting UC Berkeley, Institute of Cognitive & Brain Sciences during 2013/14

July 2013
Leonie Oostwoud Wijdenes joins the lab from Jeroen Smeets' group in Amsterdam

May 2013
Paul Bays at the Vision Sciences Society meeting in Naples, Florida

August 2012
New article in Journal of Vision [pdf] investigates the role of memory in selecting eye movements in natural vision

July 2012
Louise Marshall to join UCL's PhD programme in Clinical Neurosciences

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