NeuroTech - Research focus
Lapses of responsiveness
Brief complete lapses of responsiveness (~0.5–15 s) include microsleeps, lost-attention lapses, and diverted-attention lapses. All of these can be very serious, not only disrupting performance but leading to accidents and, in some cases, multiple fatalities, particularly in transport and military sectors. We have shown that microsleeps occurring in healthy non-sleep-deprived people at a mean rate of 89 /h.
We are a world leader in lapse research, particularly in terms of (i) behavioural and EEG-based detection and characterization of microsleeps, (ii) investigation of the underlying mechanisms of lapses via zooming in on deep neuroelectric activity in the brain and via by simultaneous-fMRI+EEG, and (iii) and effects of factors such sleep deprivation and task complexity on propensity to lapse. A major aim is the development of a software-based platform for integration with a commercially-available EEG headset to create a system able to predict lapses in real-time and provide early ‘wake-up’ warnings for implementation in critical real-world environments.
Obstructive sleep apnoea
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder, characterized by recurrent upper airway obstruction during sleep, which leads to events where breathing stops (apnoea) or becomes very shallow (hypopnoea). This respiratory disturbance leads to cyclical oxygen desaturation, sleep fragmentation, and, in turn, excessive daytime sleepiness and a substantially increased propensity for microsleeps and risk of fatal accidents on the road. In addition, we have shown that people with untreated moderate-severe OSA have substantially and chronically decreased perfusion in 3 areas of the brain during wakefulness, in addition to changes due to increased drowsiness. We consider these changes precede and probably underlie future structural abnormalities.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) during sleep is the treatment of choice for OSA but is only publically funded for severe OSA. We have a longitudinal study underway aimed at quantifying adverse changes in perfusion, cognition, and microsleep propensity in people with moderate OSA and determining the extent to which these can be reversed with CPAP treatment.
Forensic brainwave analysis (FBA) (‘brain fingerprinting’) is a technique, developed in the U.S. and in its infancy, in which event-related potentials (primarily P300) in response to 3 types of visual or auditory stimuli (probes, targets, irrelevants) can be used to determine whether a person has knowledge of an event, weapon, procedure, environment, etc., which only that person would have – e.g., if perpetrator of some crime.
A NZ Law Foundation funded programme run by the University of Canterbury's School of Law, with team members from other UC departments, University of Otago, Massey University, Auckland University of Technology, and NZBRI, are aiming to bring this technique to NZ, carry out further lab- and field-based validation studies (so far, it has never been faulted), and, if all goes well, launch it as a routine procedure by NZ Police and, ultimately, be accepted by NZ Courts as evidence of a defendant being guilty or innocent. NeuroTech is part of the NZ team, providing expert evaluation of the technology and methodology, and undertaking further R&D aimed at substantially reducing the time of the FBA test (currently 3-4 hours) and pre-test preparation, while retaining its accuracy.
NewslettersThe newsletters below outline Neurotech activity and achievements:
Neurotech Programme - Overview (March 2016)
Neurotech Programme - Overview (September 2014)
Neurotech Programme - Overview (April 2012)
Neurotech Programme - Overview (May 2010)
Neurotech Programme - Overview (April 2009)
Neurotech Programme - Overview (June 2008)
Neurotech Programme - Overview (June 2007)
Neurotech Programme - Overview (April 2006)
Neurotech Programme - Overview (May 2005)