Head of Lab - Professor Nilli Lavie FBA

Current Appointment: Professor of Psychology and Brain Sciences at the Department of Psychology and the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. 

Previously: Research scientist at the MRC Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, UK. Postdoctoral fellowship held at Anne Treisman's laboratory at the University of CA., Berkeley, funded by the Miller Institute for Basic research in Science. PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Tel-Aviv University, Israel. BA Degrees in Psychology and Philosophy from Tel-Aviv University, Israel (Magnum com Laude in both).

Load Theory of Attention and Cognition Control
Creator of Load Theory of attention and cognitive control, one of the most highly cited contemporary theories of information processing in cognitive science. Load Theory offers a new approach concerning the nature of information processing that reconciles the apparently contradicting views in this debate regarding the issue's of capacity limits versus automaticity of processing. In Load Theory, perceptual information processing has limited capacity but processing proceeds automatically on all information within its capacity.

Professional Fellowships
2016    Elected Fellow of the British Academy
2012    Honorary life member of the Experimental Psychological Society, UK 
2012    Elected Fellow of the Society of Biology, UK
2011    Elected Fellow of the American Psychological Society 
2011    Elected Fellow of the British Psychological Society

Awards, Prizes and Honours
2012    Selected as one of the Top 40 UCL Academic Role Models
2012    Selected as a UCL Woman Academic Champion
2012    Experimental Psychology Society Mid-Career Award
2011    Current Biology Q & A Click on the article opposite >
2011    Selected as an “Inspirational Woman” in the WiSE campaign
2010    Selected as one of Cambridge's leading women in Cognitive Neuroscience 
2006    BPS Cognitive award for outstanding research on human cognition.

Author of over 100 high-impact scientific manuscripts (~10,000 citations, H index: 45 as of May, 2014). Lavie's research has received extensive media coverage including feature articles and cover stories in the New Scientist and Zeit Wissen; full-length television documentaries in the UK, Europe and USA (for example an hour-long feature focusing on Load Theory in the Discovery Channel); frequent BBC appearances (including BBC Horizon and BBC1 “Have I Got News For You”) and regular coverage in the print media. 

Academic supervision: 21 PhD students, 18 postdoctoral fellows and hosted 19 academic visitors.

E-Mail: n.lavie@ucl.ac.uk

Phone: +44 (0) 207 679 5404

Address: 26 Bedford Way, London, WC1E 6BT

Post Doctoral Researchers

Dr Alina Bialkowski

Research Focus

The amount of load on the brain is critical to determining whether a task can be fully perceived with high levels of perceptual load causing inattentional blindness — a phenomenon where a person looks but fails to see. Failing to notice and respond to changes in the visual environment can have serious consequences, and better modelling and understanding of load in natural environments can reduce such risks. I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Attention and Cognitive Control lab. My work is at the intersection of computer vision, machine learning and cognitive neuroscience, and involves the modelling of attention for real world applications. I develop computational models to represent visual information (i.e. images and video) to better understand distraction, load and attention mechanisms in the brain. I also develop visualisations of machine learning and computer vision models to bring human understanding to data.Prior to moving to UCL, I received my PhD in machine learning at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia, where I also received a BEng (Electrical Engineering). I also spent a year at Disney Research Pittsburgh where I developed algorithms and tools to automatically monitor and analyse team sports. My research interests include feature learning, pattern recognition, modelling and visualisation of large visual and spatio-temporal datasets.

E-Mail: a.bialkowski@ucl.ac.uk

Phone: 020 7679 5552 

Dr Fintan Nagle

Research Focus

Fintan is a vision scientist with a computational background. After BSc and MRes training in computer science and bioinformatics, he competed PhD research in experimental psychology, conducting the first analysis of temporal visual search on dynamic natural scenes. His current research interests are modelling and prediction of the attentional state during task-switching behaviour, temporal visual search, and knowledge representation for data and model sharing.

E-Mail: fintan.nagle.10@ucl.ac.uk 

Phone: 020 7679 5552 

Dr Jake Fairnie

Research Focus

Jake’s research focuses on attention, awareness and unconscious processing. He is interested in how our brains cope with the overwhelming amount of sensory information in today’s hectic world. Jake is fascinated by how we can be distracted by our name in a distant conversation at a party or an attractive individual in the street and yet, at the same time, fail to notice a pedestrian crossing the road, the touch of a pickpocket, or a magician’s sleight of hand. Jake also makes science films and chocolate brains.

E-Mail: jake.fairnie@ucl.ac.uk

Luke Palmer

Research Focus

• Cognitive and computational neuroscience of the visual system
• Machine learning
• Computer vision (esp. landmark registration)
• Biomedical imaging (esp. fMRI)
• Biometrics

E-Mail: luke.palmer.12@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 5552

Dr Theresa Wildegger

Research Focus

I am broadly interested in perception, attention and memory. I completed a BSc in Psychology and Neuropsychology at Bangor University, where I studied cross-linguistic influences on word perception in Welsh-English bilinguals under the supervision of Prof Debbie Mills in the Bangor Brain and Cognitive Development lab (BBCD). At the same time, I also worked as a research assistant in the BBCD on a range of different projects. I then moved to the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University to complete an MSc in Psychological Research which, under the supervision of Prof Glyn Humphreys, examined the effects of object knowledge on visual search. Upon completion of my Masters, I stayed at Oxford University for a DPhil degree, working together with Prof Kia Nobre and Prof Glyn Humphreys. In my DPhil thesis, I examined a broad selection of topics including feature-based and spatial preparatory attention, subliminal influences in WM, and retrospective attentional selection within WM. As a postdoc in the Attention and Cognitive Control lab at UCL, I will examine human driver attention and driver-car interactions in highly automated driving, using methods from cognitive neuroscience and machine learning.

E-Mail: t.wildegger@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 5552

PhD Students

Michael Hobbiss

Research Focus

I am interested in the types of cognitive control required for educational success, especially during the period of adolescence. How well do young people, whose ability to control their thoughts and attention is still developing, cope with the sometimes overwhelming number of concurrent information sources in the modern world? What differences are there between adolescents and adults, and what do these differences tell us about brain and cognitive development in this period? I run laboratory experiments and also work with schools to try to answer these sorts of questions, measuring things distraction, emotion and multi-tasking ability.

Kate Molloy

Research Focus

In our information-heavy world, perceptual overload can mean that we miss important information when we are busy. Our environment is multisensory, and so it is crucial to discover whether perceptual demands on one system can limit our ability in another. My research focuses on how well we can hear when our attention is focused on a visual task. Hearing is often regarded as an early warning system which reacts to unexpected sounds even when we are engaged elsewhere, but recent evidence has suggested that under very high visual demand, we become ‘deaf’. I am investigating which auditory processes are susceptible to this limitation, using psychophysics to determine when behaviour is affected, and MEG to discover which areas of the brain are associated with these attention effects.I studied Maths at Cambridge for my undergrad degree, followed by an MSc in Experimental Psychology at Sussex. I then worked as a Research Assistant for the MRC Institute of Hearing Research for three years, before starting at UCL. I am supervised by Nilli Lavie at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, and Maria Chait at the Ear Institute.

E-Mail: k.molloy.11@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 5372

Josh Eayrs 

Research Focus

The notion that perception relies on a capacity limited process implies that some individuals may have more capacity than others. These ‘higher capacity’ individuals may perform better than others on tasks involving increased load. This also opens the possibility that training may enhance performance through increasing capacity (for example, people who regularly play video games do seem to have better performance on certain perceptual tasks). My research is focused on establishing methods to measure the perceptual processing capacity on an individual level and potentially develop training methods to enhance this capacity. Over the past four years I studied for a BSc in Psychology at Bangor University followed by an MSc in Neuroimaging also at Bangor. Prof. Nilli Lavie is my PhD supervisor, my secondary supervisor is Prof. Chris McManus.

E-Mail: eayrs.j.o@gmail.com

Phone: 020 7679 5552 

Luca Chech

Research Focus: 
Over the last two decades we have witnessed an ever increasing amount of automation components (adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, etc.) being incorporated into our automobiles, and it has now become clear that all of these automations and more will converge in the near future to enable the next big revolution in the transportation domain: self-driving cars. It is also clear that such a profound change will not happen overnight and we will most likely go through a transition period, during which the automation will not be able to handle every situation. In these cases, the car will issue a take-over request and the driver will be required to take back control as swiftly as possible. The aim of my PhD is to understand the demands posed by these take-over request on the drivers' attentional system. Furthermore, I intend to evaluate how a range of secondary, non-driving tasks (mailing, browsing, watching videos) that drivers will likely engage in while onboard a self-driving car are going to affect the take-over time and other parameters of interest. I have previously completed a BSc in Psychology and Neurobiology and a MSc in Experimental Psychology at the University of Padua, followed by a one-year research assistantship at the Human Technology Lab in Padua. I am also broadly interested in HCI, games research, group dynamics and group-decision support systems.


020 7679 5552 

Merit Bruckmaier

Research Focus: My PhD focusses on the application of the load theory of cognitive control and attention to the real world problem of driving. During driving we are constantly charged with attending to and processing the visual scene on the road. This is essential to guarantee a safe driving environment: According to police statistics, the most common cause of traffic accidents is the failure of the driver to pay sufficient attention to what is happening on the road. 

My research aims to compare the perceptual load on the road to a physiological response of the driver that reflects their state of alertness/attention. This will allow us to understand the relationship between different physiological markers, perceptual load, and driving performance, and to translate this research into a design for safer cars that allows us to reduce possible sources of driving errors, such as inattentional blindness.

My broad research interests include attention, machine learning, and the general area of translational research and collaboration between neuroscience and technology.

Previously, I have completed a BA in Experimental Psychology, followed by an MSc in Neuroscience, both at the University of Oxford. 

E-Mail: merit.bruckmaier.16@ucl.ac.uk

Phone: 020 7679 5552 

Lab Alumni

Ula Cartwright-Finch
Charlotte Russell         
Todd Kelly  Anna Remington
James Macdonald
Rocío Salvador
Nikos Konstantinou
 Dana Raveh
Muriele Brand
Gastón J. Madrid
Rashmi Gupta  Andreea Epure
Sarah Brand
Jake Fairnie
 Ana Torralbo
Sara Hodsoll
Maha Nasrallah
Moritz Stolte  
David James Robertson