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The Group for Real-World Neuroscience (GROWN) is a research group at the MEDGIFT and Institute of Information Systems at HES-SO (University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland) in Sierre.  GROWN aims to utilise neuroscientific knowledge and tools to better understand and improve people’s functioning in real-world environments. Our work spans several areas of cognitive neuroscience (selective attention, memory, brain-sensory-cognitive development, multisensory integration), and combines multiple methodological approaches (psychophysics, ERPs, electrical neuroimaging, machine learning). We work with a variety of populations, from children to young and older adults, including both healthy individuals as well as those developing atypically and those with specific disorders. GROWN is also affiliated with the LINE & Radiodiagnostic Service at University Hospital Centre (CHUV) – University of Lausanne (UNIL) and with the Department of Hearing & Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA.

The aim of GROWN’s research is to better understand the neurocognitive mechanisms governing perception and action in real-world settings such as the classroom, high-street or home environment. People’s ability to behave effectively in everyday situations is critically dependent on our abilities to promote the processing of these objects that match our current behavioural goals and suppress those objects that do not match those goals, processes jointly called “selective attention”. The last decades have provided important advances in terms of brain and cognitive mechanisms orchestrating selective attention as well as their role in enhancing perception and in supporting the learning of new information. However, this knowledge might be limited to the purely visual settings where it’s been obtained, leaving unclear both the underlying mechanisms as well as the extent of influence of selective attention processes in naturalistic environments that are naturally multisensory (i.e., objects stimulate multiple senses at once). We are interested in how to best bridge the traditional laboratory experiments and the more recent neuroscientific experiments “in the wild”  (read more here).

Filling out these lacks in knowledge is perhaps the most important for supporting education and rehabilitation of sensory, learning and other disorders. As part of these efforts, we are currently on providing much-needed understanding of the role of visual and multisensory attentional control mechanisms in shaping literacy and numeracy attainment (read more here). We are also developing an intervention for children with amblyopia (“lazy eye”) using a virtual reality games that encourages the cooperation of both eyes, and we are investigating the role of attentional control mechanisms in the recovery of basic vision (e.g. visual acuity) and functional vision (e.g. reading) skills in those children (read more here).

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