NIH Grant to Advance Callier Researcher’s Work
Prof Developing Way to Simultaneously Record Brain Function, Eye Movements
Oct. 26, 2010
Dr. Mandy Maguire, an assistant professor in UT Dallas’ School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, was recently awarded a $74,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a mechanism that links brain response and eye tracking technologies into a platform that records results from both processes simultaneously.
Researchers study brain responses elicited by visual stimuli to gain insight into brain processes in a variety of developmental disorders, including dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But conducting these studies is difficult or impossible for groups of people who can’t sustain visual attention, such as infants, young children with autism and patients with dementia.
“We’re taking the best parts of two existing technologies and merging them,” said Maguire who runs the Developmental Neurolinguistics Laboratory at the Callier Center for Communications Disorders.
For Maguire, who is currently investigating how children recognize objects, the goal was to develop a mechanism that would allow her to record both behavioral eye movements and brain responses related to object identification in early childhood. She wants to identify what part of an object a child needs to look at to accurately identify it, and how the brain reacts upon finding it.
Unfortunately, the technology needed to address this question had not been created. So Maguire and her team set out to develop a system that could.
“The new platform allows for the study of infants as well as populations that researchers could not previously study using this technology,” Maguire said. “This will allow us to look at people’s natural processes and see exactly how their brain reacts in a much more accurate way.”
Maguire said the next step is to test the new technology in adults and small children before testing it in special populations.
“The long term outcome is to find a way to study behavior and brain differences in populations that we currently can’t test because the subjects don’t have the attention resources to do these studies,” Maguire said.
Maguire received the one-year grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the $787 billion stimulus package President Barack Obama signed into law in February.