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Major project to study language and perception in humans

Mon, 26 Nov 2012

Psychologists at the University of East Anglia are part of a major European research programme that aims to help people with dementia, deafness, reading disabilities and other cognitive disorders.

Prof Kenny Coventry

The EU has invested more than €4 million (Euro) in LanPercept, a new Marie Curie Initial Training Network that will develop cutting-edge techniques to study human abilities to map visual information and language. The four-year collaboration starts in January 2013.

Head of UEA’s School of Psychology, Prof Kenny Coventry, will lead two research projects examining how language and perception change during ageing, and how language plays a role in visually attending to everyday events and remembering those events.

 

Prof Coventry said: “Language and perception are two fundamental human brain systems that furnish us with an understanding of where we are in the world and an ability to communicate about our location. We currently know very little about how these brain systems work together across the lifespan. Early evidence suggests that an ability to express location may be a possible marker of abnormal ageing. This is something we will be exploring in more depth.”

The university is one of eight European universities, and only two UK institutions, involved in the project. Aston University is the other UK institution involved. The programme will support basic and clinical research and bring together professionals from psychology, neuroscience and linguistics.

The network is to identify key behavioural and brain mechanisms explaining how actions in everyday situations shape language understanding and how language conditions the way the visual environment is perceived.

Knowledge gained will be used to develop testing and training tools and software for clinical work with elderly people suffering from dementia and people with autism spectrum disorders, deafness and reading disabilities.

Funded through the Seventh EU Framework Programme, LanPercept will also train 11 PhD researchers - two of them at UEA - and four postdoctoral researchers across the eight leading academic and seven industrial and private sector partners in Europe. The researchers will do internships with the participating eye-tracking and brain research companies that offer technical tools for vision-language research, and receive training on identifying  applications for research outputs, as well as preparation for a professional career outside academia.

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