Vaegan Seminar: From Studies of Consciousness to a Treatment for Blindness?

Friday, 3 March, 2017 - 13:00


On Friday 3 March 2017 at 1pm we kick off the semester with the first lecture in the Vaegan Seminar Series. We are fortunate to have Associate Professor Derek Arnold from the School of Psychology, University of Queensland visit with us to discuss his research. All students, staff, alumni and general public are more than welcome to attend this facinating talk. Relevant details are as follows:

Date: Friday 3 March 2017

Time: 1pm - 2pm

Location: K-H13-G001 - RC Theatre (The Red Centre Theatre)

Presenter: A/Prof Derek Arnold, School of Psychology, University of Queensland.

Title of lecture: From studies of consciousness to a treatment for blindness?

Succinct summary: Inspiring undergraduate lectures can inspire new research, even into blindness

Abstract: In this talk, I will discuss a line of research sparked by an undergraduate who asked a simple question - why do images get suppressed from awareness during binocular rivalry? This sparked investigations resulting in my considered response to this question (because binocular suppression is useful for facilitating the visibility of distant fixated objects over selective obstructions of one eye). This, in turn, led me to adopt methodologies that can reliably suppress information from awareness for protracted periods, which I have used to show that people can be taught to both fear (classical conditioning) and to better manually interact with inputs they feel they cannot see. This, in turn, led me to investigate whether the extent of subjective blindness associated with the physiological blindspot could be reduced by training - surprisingly it can. This speaks to a controversial literature, regarding the plausibility of using perceptual learning to improve visual functioning in cases of acquired localised blindness, such as that resulting from age-related macular degeneration. In sum, you never know where a question after a second year lecture might lead.

Short Biography: A/Prof Derek Arnold was awarded his PhD from Macquarie University in 2002, and in that year took up an Anglo-Australian postdoctoral Fellowship funded by The Royal Society at UCL. In 2006 he accepted a faculty position at The University of Queensland, initially as an ARC funded Australian Postdoctoral Fellow, then as an Australian Research Fellow, and since 2014 as a Future Fellow. One day he may grow up and get a real job. His' research is primarily concerned with links between neural processing and conscious perceptual experience, with specific interests in time perception, cross modal perception, and perceptual rivalry.