News

Virtual Psychonomics 2020

For this year’s (virtual) Psychonomics conference, I should have been jetting off to Texas to present the latest findings from our older adult study.

The good news is that I got to present these findings in a recorded presentation (available to watch for 6 months here). The not-so-good news was that this was done from the comfort of my own home at… ummm…. 11pm on a Saturday (not so ideal!). Despite this unsavoury hour, I was able to chat virtually with some folk about my work and got some very helpful feedback (shout out to Arthur Samuel, Cynthia Hunter, Julia Strand, and Violet Brown!). In some more good news, this study has been recently accepted for publication in Psychology & Aging!

It was nice to be able to watch recordings and spoken sessions at my own pace and leisure – there has been some fantastic work done over the past year and I enjoyed being able to press ‘pause’ every so often to ensure that I understood the nuances. But I do look forward to getting back to the more traditional conference format. I believe now more so than ever that face-to-face interaction (and the fruitful discussions that this facilitates) is a cornerstone of scientific progress. It’s also simply more fun.

Bye for now!

Ronan.

Research Open day, 16th December, 2019.

We recently hosted a research open day for our older adult participants in the Psychology department at University of York. This was a nice opportunity to reach out to our participants (to whom we owe a great deal of thanks) and provide some general information on changes across the lifespan in perception, cognition, and language. But more importantly, this was also an opportunity to feed back to them some preliminary results from the study they took part in during the summer. In sum:

  • Prof Sven Mattys provided an interesting overview of how our auditory system changes as we age, but also how higher-level cognitive load (e.g., memorising visual information) can impact even the most basic auditory abilities (e.g., detecting tones/beeps)
  • Dr Angela de Bruin talked about some of her fascinating research on the effects of ageing on speech production in bilinguals (e.g., how easy/difficult is it to ‘language-switch’ during conversation?)
  • Finally, I shared preliminary data from the study our attendees took part in during the summer on effortful listening and fatigue. Stay tuned for results from that study….

Overall, conversations were stimulating and wide-ranging, from the representativeness of our participant sample to the potential impact of personality (future funding idea perhaps?) on effort and fatigue.

Thank you to all of our wonderful attendees for making this research possible!

Psychonomics 2019 and UofT lab visit

Yesterday, I returned home from a highly productive and enjoyable trip to Canada. First stop was the Palais des Congres, Montreal for APCAM (https://apcsociety.org/) and the annual Psychonomics meeting (https://www.psychonomic.org/page/2019program). Then, in between doing some sightseeing, I continued to Toronto where Kathy Pichora-Fuller and Craig Chambers kindly gave me a tour of the University of Toronto Mississauga campus and their communications department.

APCAM was a highly eclectic mix of talks on all things audition, including speech and music perception. Julia Strand kicked things off with an engaging and thought-provoking discussion of listening effort in all its various forms and guises. Other personal highlights include Simal’s discussion of various ERPs as indicators of challenges with syntactical processing, Weiss’ entertaining and enlightening talk about congenital amusia, and Wright & Palmers’ talk on cardiac system changes during musical performance. Finally, Begel presented some fascinating work showing that, compared to controls, children with developmental dyslexia show significant deficits in timing and rhythmic skills.

The main event (Psychonomics) was 4-days long. My poster session on Friday went surprisingly well and I was inundated with interesting and thought-provoking questions throughout (the bottom right pic nicely captures this thought provocation in action!). Thank you especially to Violet, Julia, Colin, Carina, Kathy, Jason, Arthur, Anne, and Kristin (and others) for engaging with my poster and asking some great questions. As is often the case, highlights from the conference included the friends that I made and the interesting discussions about speech perception, open science, pupillometry, and much much more. I am already excited to attend the next Psychonomics meeting in Austin, Texas.

Finally, a massive thanks to Kathy Pichora-Fuller and Craig Chambers who gave me a lab tour and chatted with me for most of Friday. Kathy was full of insight and knowledge about everything from Canadian and UofT history to more work-related topics on hearing loss and ageing. As a type 1 diabetic, I was both intrigued (and slightly embarrassed) to learn from Kathy that insulin was in fact discovered at the University of Toronto (https://heritage.utoronto.ca/exhibits/insulin). Craig made a lasting impression on me for his hospitality, warmth, and his creative eye for developing behavioural paradigms in infants and older adults to uncover language processing and productions mechanisms (more details can be found here: https://www.psycholinguistics.ca/people).

Basic Auditory Science Meeting 2019, London

Last week (4th-5th September) I presented the first piece of work from the ‘What the eyes can reveal about the ageing listening brain’ project at the Basic Auditory Science Meeting 2019 at UCL, London. Wandering around the UCL campus, it’s hard not to be inspired by the place, and this visit was no different. The historical significance is especially pervasive in the streets surrounding the beautiful Russell Square gardens with its close proximity to the British museum and various highly influential UCL departments. As a first-timer at the BAS meeting, I found it to be very welcoming and interesting. Here were some of my personal highlights:

  • Interesting keynote talk by Prof Karen Steel demonstrating what we can learn about human deafness (e.g., how it is not caused solely by hair cell loss) by studying mutant mice
  • ‘Poster teasers’ were presented to lure attendees to particular posters. I though this was an excellent way to showcase the remarkable unorthodox creativity of some presenters
  • All of the work coming out of the Chait lab ( https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ear/research/chaitlab) was particularly fascinating, especially the work on sustained attention using pupillometry and other eye tracking metrics
  • A very touching and witty tribute to the late Ray Meddis by Ian Winter
  • As always, it was lovely to meet so many new people. I especially enjoyed chatting with and hearing about the work of John Culling, Alice Milne, Stuart Rosen, Emma Holmes, Rob Summers, Brian Roberts, Sijia Zhao, and Alan Archer-Boyd, Emanuel Perrugia, and Rhiannon Brook.

A special word of thanks goes to my Speech Lab colleague Sarah Knight who so determinedly convinced me to attend this meeting. It was well worth it!

UK-Open Research Working Groups Meeting

Really enjoyed attending the inaugural UK network meeting of the UK Open Research Working Groups yesterday at Aston University. Such a welcoming group of people who are very much pulling towards a common goal – to improve the way we do science.

The take-home messages from the meeting for me were:

(1) All humans are fallible and prone to biases that can undermine the scientific work that we conduct. However, there are small steps that we can (and should) take to try to avoid/limit this.

(2) There is no perfect Open Science researcher – small incremental steps can go a long way.

(3) The Open Science movement is not about victimising or calling out malpractice, but rather to educate and raise awareness so that slow and incremental change can make science, and in this case specifically psychological science, more transparent and effective.

Introducing…… the eye tracking lab! (and Lyndon)

After much deliberation over how to fit an Eyelink host and display PC into a sound-treated booth and very small testing room, we have finally made it.

Pictured below is Lyndon, a member of the speech lab who will also be testing on the effortful listening project.

We are excited to begin testing young adults over the coming months. We aim to begin testing older adults in the Summer.

Stay tuned for more project updates.

Ronan & Lyndon