Attention and optic flow in dynamics scenes

The ease with which most people navigate their surroundings conceals an important fact: the brain works very hard to take in as much information as possible about the environment to plan and coordinate actions needed to get around. But how this occurs is not well understood. Vision is one of the most important sources of information for navigation. As people move, visual information continually changes in a process known as optic flow. This process helps inform the brain of actions needed to get to a certain destination, and how to avoid any obstacles along the way. Alzheimer’s disease is often associated with difficulties perceiving optic flow. As a result, people with Alzheimer’s are at significantly greater risk of injury from falls and car accidents. Christine Tipper aims to understand how optic flow is used for navigation by examining how we attend to the dynamic visual information encountered as we move through the environment. Her research goal is to gain insight into how the brain processes this visual information and uses it to coordinate effective actions. This understanding could help explain problems with navigation seen in people with Alzheimer’s, and may be an important step towards developing useful remediation or coping techniques.