Reading Fixations Saccades

An example of fixations and saccades over text in an eye tracking study. This is the typical pattern of eye movement during reading.

Much of our brain activity is not available for conscious introspection and neuroscientific evidence has made it clear that nonconscious neural activity is essential for controlling our behavior (Kringelbach, 2009). Empirical research in neuroscience has been driven by methods and technologies that enable researchers to collect data on nonconscious processing and compare these data with observable behavior.

The basic assumption in neuroscience research is that tasks make specific demands on the brain and these demands cause changes in the chemical and electrical neural activity. These changes result in a host of physiological responses affecting cerebral blood flow, heart rate, muscle activity, electrodermal responses, eye movements, pupil size, blood pressure, respiration, oxygen consumption, salivation, skin temperature, immune function, endocrine function and others.

There are multiple technologies and methods to measure such physiological responses but the techniques that have been most successful in advancing cognitive neuroscience, a branch that is arguably the most relevant to the learning sciences community, include non-invasive tools of two varieties. They either provide high-resolution spatial information and track changes in cerebral blood flow such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIR), or Electroencephalography (EEG) that provides high-resolution temporal information and assess changes in the electrical activity of the brain.

Eye tracking technologies provide useful means for capturing and analyzing eye movement and pupil size data. Eye tracking data can be helpful in terms of determining both attentional and cognitive aspects of information processing and learning.

Project LENS leverages expertise in eye tracking, EEG, and fNIR to study the attentional and cognitive mechanisms underlying learning with multimedia within a population of students that exhibit a range of cognitive and attentional differences.