School of Psychology Contacts & people

James Harrison

Research group:
Cognitive Science
Email:
HarrisonJJ@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 0710
Location:
57, Park Place

Research summary

How do we strike a balance between willed, voluntary behaviours, and automatic reflexive movement? Movements can be elicited automatically and unconsciously in all of us, yet we have the ability to inhibit such actions to allow us to behave the way we want to.

My research is concerned with the basic processes which inhibit unwanted reflexive movement in favour of volitional willed action, and how deep the difference between these two processes actually goes. I am also interested in how individual variation between our ability to halt automatic movement might relate to neurological differences such as levels of GABA in motor cortex or psychopathologies such as schizophrenia.

Teaching summary

I currently teach tutorials for first year psychology students.

Selected publications (2008 onwards)

2014

Harrison, J. J. (2014). Volition and automaticity in the interactions of optokinetic nystagmus, infantile nystagmus, saccades and smooth pursuit. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University. pdf

2011

Reichelt, A. C., Lin, T. E., Harrison, J. J., Honey, R. C. and Good, M. A. (2011). Differential role of the hippocampus in response-outcome and context-outcome learning: Evidence from selective satiation proceduresNeurobiology of Learning and Memory, 96(2), 248-253. (10.1016/j.nlm.2011.05.001)

Full list of publications

2014

Harrison, J. J. (2014). Volition and automaticity in the interactions of optokinetic nystagmus, infantile nystagmus, saccades and smooth pursuit. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University. pdf

2011

Reichelt, A. C., Lin, T. E., Harrison, J. J., Honey, R. C. and Good, M. A. (2011). Differential role of the hippocampus in response-outcome and context-outcome learning: Evidence from selective satiation proceduresNeurobiology of Learning and Memory, 96(2), 248-253. (10.1016/j.nlm.2011.05.001)

Research topics and related papers

1) Antisaccades and Distractors

When a stimulus appears suddenly in-front of a participant, their natural tendency is to make a saccade (an eye movement) towards it. In the antisaccade task, the participant must both inhibit this response, and then wilfully look in the other direction. In the distractor task, two stimuli are presented to the participant, and they must choose to look at a target stimulus, ignoring the distractor. Unsurprisingly, participants find the antisaccade task and the distractor task difficult to do, eye movements under these conditions are slow, and many errors are made.

I am interested in how individual performances on these sorts of task vary between and within subjects. Do these tasks tap into the same inhibitory mechanisms, or are there multiple different processes at work? Can performance on simple movement inhibition tasks inform us of more complex inhibitory processes such as general impulsivity? How do variations in these tasks map onto brain physiology such as levels of GABA? And do performances on these tasks relate to psychopathologies such as schizophrenia?

2) Nystagmus and Saccades

Nystagmus (in this context) refers to the flickering eye movements which occur when we are presented with stimuli which move across our visual field. A classic example being the flickering movement of someone’s eyes as they stare out the train window.

Nystagmus, as opposed to saccadic eye movement, is thought to be reliant on very low-level automatic processes; so how does it interact with voluntary eye movements such as saccades? What happens when we make a saccade during nystagmus? How does nystagmus when we move our heads relate to that when the visual field moves but we stay still? And what implications will our findings have for the sharp dichotomy which is often drawn between reflexive nystagmus and volitional saccades?

Funding

Funding provided by the School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

Research group

Cognitive Science

Research collaborators

Dr Petroc Sumner
Dr Tom Freeman
Dr Aline Bompas
Dr Frédéric Boy

Undergraduate education

2007 – 2010: Psychology BSc, 1st class honours, Cardiff University

2009: University Research Opportunities Program, Cardiff University

Postgraduate education

2010 – Present: PhD Psychology, Cardiff University 

Awards/external committees

Welsh BPS undergraduate prize for best final year dissertation

George Westby prize for best degree result in BSc Psychology