At the Child Vision Lab, we study the development of the visual system in normal-sighted individuals and patients with eye disease, by adapting state-of-the-art behavioural and neuroimaging approaches and developing novel in-house techniques. To find out more about the research areas we are currently investigating in our lab, click on the headings below.
- Understanding New Treatments for Heritable Eye Disease
In order to give patients and clinicians the best possible chances of recovering vision after heritable eye disease, we are developing novel tests of visual function especially suited for young patients with low vision. These new techniques may help researchers and clinicians evaluate new treatments (such as regenerative gene therapies) more efficiently and precisely, as well as improving patient experience compared to standard clinical tests of vision.
This project has already seen the development of a sensitive brain measure of visual function in pediatric patients with achromatopsia, a heritable eye disease that causes low acuity and lack of colour vision from birth. Click Here to read the preprint of our evaluation of this method.
Researchers: Dr Tessa Dekker, Dr Pete Jones, Dr Mahtab Farahbakhsh and Hugo Chow-Wing-Bom
- Developing a Sensitive Visual System
At the Child Vision Lab, we want to know how visual information processing in the brain changes with age. Not only is this important for uncovering the mechanisms behind human vision, but it is also essential for understanding how new treatments might act on paediatric eye disease.
To achieve this, we use fun, custom-made vision tasks to measure children’s behaviour in response to visual stimuli, and state-of-the-art technology, such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), to measure participant’s brain activity. With this combination of approaches, we can find out both how children’s visual abilities differ from those of adults, and how processes in the brain develop to achieve adult-level vision.
Researchers: Dr Tessa Dekker, Dr Pete Jones, Dr Mahtab Farahbakhsh, Hugo Chow-Wing-Bom, Georgia Milne
- Growing a Connected Brain
- We use a mixture of psychophysics (the quantitative analysis of how physical visual stimuli affect a participant's experience or behaviour) and brain imaging techniques (such as fMRI and EEG) to investigate how children combine the information they receive from their eyes with the information they receive from their other senses. We know adults are able to combine different types of sensory information to improve their understanding of the world around them, for example when its dark outside we might use the auditory information of a dog barking as well as the small amount of visual information available to more accurately work out where the dog is located.
Surprisingly, this ability to integrate sensory information does not emerge until late in childhood, at around 10 years old. We are interested in how young children use the sensory information available to them when making visuomotor decisions, and create fun interactive tasks (including touchscreen games and Virtual Reality) to investigate this. Our findings relate to real-world problems of choosing safe courses of action when engaging in what is known as movement under risk (e.g. crossing a road or playing sports).
Researchers: Dr Tessa Dekker, Dr Pete Jones, Georgia Milne
- Studying Mental Health and Wellbeing of Parents and Children
- The Child Vision Lab is collaborating with UCL Psychologists Professor Peter Fonagy and Dr Marc Tibber to research how prolonged COVID-19 restrictions have been affecting families in the UK. The project's longitudinal questionnaire received an incredible response, with over 600 people taking part. We are extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to answer the online surveys - this support is crucial in helping us understand the longer-term effects of the pandemic on both adults and children.
We are currently analysing the data collected, with a specific focus on how socioeconomic factors may affect parental mental health and, in turn, child wellbeing. We hope that this important research can identify determiners of risk or resilience for mental health and wellbeing, improve our understanding of education and social care priorities, and inform policymakers for future public health decisions.
Researchers: Dr Tessa Dekker, Georgia Milne, Greg Cooper
- Investigating Internally-Generated Vision
We are interested in how the brain can create visual representations, even when no visual stimulation is present. These internally-generated visual phenomena, including phosphenes (seeing shapes, flashes, or colours that aren't present in the environment) and visual hallucinations, are common in certain visual conditions, such as Charles-Bonnet syndrome, Dementia, and Schizophrenia.
By improving our understanding of how and why these visual representations are generated, we hope to reveal how the mechanisms responsible may contribute to normal vision, and whether these mechanisms are plastic, i.e., are they constant, or do they change across developmental stages in children, or pharmaceutical interventions in adults?
Researchers: Dr Tessa Dekker, Greg Cooper