Brain and eye combined monitoring breakthrough could lead to fewer road accidents

July 8, 2013
Brain and eye combined monitoring breakthrough could lead to fewer road accidents
An eye-tracking, brain monitoring experiment in progress. The infra-red camera is on the small black console on the desk in front of the main PC screen.

Latest advances in capturing data on brain activity and eye movement are being combined to open up a host of 'mindreading' possibilities for the future. These include the potential development of a system that can detect when drivers are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel.

The research has been undertaken at the University of Leicester with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and in collaboration with the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The breakthrough involves bringing two recent developments in the world of technology together: high-speed eye tracking that records in unprecedented detail using cutting-edge infra-red cameras; and high-density electroencephalograph (EEG) technology that measures with millisecond precision through electrodes placed on the scalp.

The research has overcome previous which made it difficult to monitor eye movement and simultaneously. The team has done this by developing novel signal processing techniques.

This could be the first step towards a system that combines brain and eye monitoring to automatically alert drivers who are showing signs of drowsiness. The system would be built into the vehicle and connected unobtrusively to the driver, with the EEG looking out for that only occur in the early stages of sleepiness. The would reinforce this by looking for erratic gaze patterns symptomatic of someone starting to feel drowsy and different from those characteristic of someone driving who is constantly looking out for hazards. Fatigue has been estimated to account for around 20 per cent of on the UK's motorways.

The breakthrough achieved by the University of Leicester could also ultimately be built on to deliver many other everyday applications in the years ahead. For example:

  • Computer games of the future could dispense with the need for the player to physically interact with any type of console, mouse or other hand-operated system. Instead, eye movement and brain activity data would be collected and processed to indicate what action the player wants to take. By distinguishing the tiny differences in various types of brain activity, the EEG would identify the precise action the player desires (e.g. run, jump or throw), while the eye movement data would show exactly where on the screen the player was looking when they had this thought. This information could be combined to enable the correct action to occur. An unobtrusive headset would be all that would be required to capture the necessary data.
  • People who have no arm functionality could move their wheelchairs simply through their eye movements. These movements could be tracked and the corresponding brain activity analysed to identify when these indicate a desire to move in a certain direction. This would then automatically activate a steering and propulsion mechanism that would drive the wheelchair to that place.
  • The breakthrough could also provide the basis for improved tests to diagnose dyslexia and other reading disorders. Current tests revolve around a rapid succession of single words flashed onto a computer screen, with the resulting brain activity monitored by EEG. The new technique could enable the person being tested to move their eyes and read longer passages of text in a natural way, making the tests much more realistic and revealing.
  • With the basic concept now demonstrated successfully, the team aim to continue their work and eventually develop software that, in real time, automatically monitors both eye movement and brain activity.
  • Dr Matias Ison, who has led the research, says: "Historically, eye-tracking and EEG have evolved as independent fields. We have managed to overcome the challenges that were standing in the way of integrating these technologies. This is already leading to a much better understanding of how the brain responds when the eyes are moving. Monitoring the alertness of drivers is just one of many potential applications for this work. Building on the foundation provided by our EPSRC-funded project, we hope to see the first of these starting to become feasible within the next three to five years."

Explore further: Helpful for robotics: Brain uses old information for new movements

Related Stories

Helpful for robotics: Brain uses old information for new movements

April 18, 2013
Information from the senses has an important influence on how we move. For instance, you can see and feel when a mug is filled with hot coffee, and you lift it in a different way than if the mug were empty. Neuroscientist ...

Eye movement not engaged in arms race, researchers find

February 28, 2012
We make our eye movements earlier or later in order to coordinate with movements of our arms, New York University neuroscientists have found. Their study, which appears in the journal Neuron, points to a mechanism in the ...

Despite reported dislike, older readers put in less effort when using e-readers, researchers find

February 6, 2013
Reading text on digital devices like tablet computers requires less effort from older adults than reading on paper, according to research published February 6 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Matthias Schlesewsky and ...

Clear vision despite a heavy head: Model explains the choice of simple movements

November 9, 2011
The brain likes stereotypes - at least for movements. Simple actions are most often performed in the same manner. A mathematical model explains why this is the case and could be used to generate more natural robot movements ...

More than just looking: Role of tiny eye movements explained

February 21, 2013
Have you ever wondered whether it's possible to look at two places at once? Because our eyes have a specialized central region with high visual acuity and good color vision, we must always focus on one spot at a time in order ...

Rapid eye movements significantly delayed in people with glaucoma

December 6, 2012
Rapid eye movements are significantly delayed in patients with glaucoma, even those in the early stages of the disease, research has found.

Recommended for you

The neural codes for body movements

July 21, 2017
A small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to researchers in the laboratory of Caltech's Richard Andersen, James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, Tianqiao and Chrissy ...

Faulty support cells disrupt communication in brains of people with schizophrenia

July 20, 2017
New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia ...

Scientists reveal how patterns of brain activity direct specific body movements

July 20, 2017
New research by Columbia scientists offers fresh insight into how the brain tells the body to move, from simple behaviors like walking, to trained movements that may take years to master. The discovery in mice advances knowledge ...

Scientists discover combined sensory map for heat, humidity in fly brain

July 20, 2017
Northwestern University neuroscientists now can visualize how fruit flies sense and process humidity and temperature together through a "sensory map" within their brains, according to new research.

Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons

July 20, 2017
Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have opened a black box in the brain whose contents explain one of the remarkable yet mysterious facts of life.

Speech language therapy delivered through the Internet leads to similar improvements as in-person treatment

July 20, 2017
Telerehabilitation helps healthcare professionals reach more patients in need, but some worry it doesn't offer the same quality of care as in-person treatment. This isn't the case, according to recent research by Baycrest.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.