A wearable brain scanner is being used for the first time to investigate the brain activity in elderly people whilst driving a car.
Research led by the UK’s University of Nottingham will explore how cognitive processing whilst driving is affected by ageing.
This project will use brain imaging technology developed at the University of Nottingham known as OPM-MEG. The system is lightweight, wearable, and can be held close to the scalp using a helmet-style design, allowing for significantly better sensitivity and spatial resolution than current imaging technologies.
This device will be used to provide highly accurate, real-time brain imaging for a group of volunteers, who will be asked to navigate a realistic driving simulator through an urban setting with multiple hazards. This will allow researchers to analyse the ‘detect and response’ reactions from the resulting data.
Recent evidence has shown that although elderly people exhibit a decline in driving ability, they also demonstrate increased mental effort to mitigate losses in performance.
This project will, for the first time, shed light on the neural underpinnings of visual search in driving and study how cognitive training impacts brain responses as well as performance.
Volunteers of different ages will drive through a simulated environment and face some of the issues that are critical in real driving, such as the sudden appearance of a pedestrian.
Director at the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, Dr Simon Bennett said: “We are delighted to be able to support this project, which again demonstrates the versatility of the brain imaging technology developed by our researchers. We look forward to seeing the take-up of this technology in neuroscience, healthcare research and clinical practice.”