Prof Simon K Rushton - BSc CNAA, PhD Edinburgh


Research group:
Cognitive science
029 208 70086
Tower Building, Park Place

Research summary

Most of my research fits under the broad title of “vision research”.  However, along the way I have strayed into neuropsychology, robotics, ergonomics and Virtual Reality.  The focus of my work today is on the problem of how a human knows where something is relative to her body (the object’s “egocentric position”) and if the person or the object is moving, how she anticipates where the object will be at some time in the future.  I am interested in this question because I believe it is the central problem in understanding the visual guidance of action - If we want to know how someone catches a ball, chases a player on the opposing team before tackling her, or picks up a cup of tea, we start with this same problem.

Teaching summary

I am module coordinator for the 1st year Psychological Research course, I teach research methods on the 1st year Practical Psychology module.  In the final year I jointly teach Vision & Action module.  I am also one of the Placement coordinators.

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Online publications

Full list of publications


Research topics and related papers

In general I am more interested in understanding the “bigger picture” than the detail.  My work reflects this.

Perception of object movement during self-movement
Key publications, Rushton & Warren (2005), Current Biology; Warren & Rushton (2010) Current Biology. 

These papers are the current bookends for “flow parsing” hypothesis of the detection of object movement that was put forward by myself and Paul Warren in 2005.

Perception of object movement when stationary
Key publications, Rushton & Wann (1999), Nature Neuroscience; Rushton (2004) in Hecht, H. & Savelsbergh, G. J. P. (Eds.).  Theories of Time-to Contact; Rushton & Duke (2009) Vision Research.

The first publication is a model of perception of time-to-contact proposed by myself and John Wann.  The second is the “big picture” article on the use of visual information for catching.  The third is the most recent work on this topic with Phil Duke.

Visual guidance of locomotion
Key publication in this area Rushton et al (1998) Current Biology

The 1998 paper sets out a new account of the visual guidance of walking that stands in contrast to the previously dominant optic flow account.  I had done little recently on this topic until a PhD student, Tracey Herlihey (nee Brandwood) persuaded me to revisit the issue.

Stereo displays and Virtual Reality
Key publications in this area, Mon-Williams et al (1992), Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics; Wann et al (1995), Vision Research; Rushton  & Riddell (1999), Applied Ergonomics.  

These three papers Mon-Williams and Wann were arguably the first to properly examine the practical and theoretical issues associated with use of stereo displays.

Neurological Rehabilitation and Neglect
Key paper in this area is Grealy et al (1999), Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

My first funding was in the area of neglect.  The planned work did not turn out as planned and instead it led me to the work in visual guidance of locomotion described above.

My work on rehabilitation was done with David Johnson, David Rose and Madeleine Grealy.  It was based on ideas by the two Davids on the use of exercise and enriched environments.  An idea that we can now see in retrospect was unfortunately ahead its time.


2014-2017:  Rushton, ESRC,  Moving to see: the benefits of self-motion for visual perception, £400k (FEC), part of international ORA+ grant with Eli Brenner (Amsterdam, NWO) and Michele Rucci (Boston University, NSF).

2010-2012: Wellcome Trust project grant, Warren & Rushton, Estimation of scene-relative object movement by a moving observer: an empirically constrained model

2001-present: Nissan Technical Center, North America, Inc, Rushton,Support of Research Activities, US$120k.

1998-2001: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK), Neural Network Modelling of the Development of Accommodation and Vergence, Riddell & Rushton, £185k.

1996-1999: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK), Level of detail in interactive 3D environments to enable effective database traversal, Wann & Rushton, £243k.

1996-1997: European Union, (Telematics), Virtual Reality and rehabilitation and assessment, with Centro Auxologico, Italy; University of Southampton etc [consortium partners], Rushton | Wann, £50k (Edinburgh/Reading share, not total consortium award).

1995-1996: Medical Research Council (UK), Unilateral Visual Neglect and the perception of motion, Rushton & Wann,£30k.

1995: Cassels Associates, Evaluation of Virtuality Visette head-mounted display, Wann | Rushton | Mon-Williams, £6k.

1995: Edinburgh Development Trust, Virtual Reality and Rehabilitation following Brain Injury: A feasibility study, Wann, Rose, Johnson, Rushton, £5k.

1995: Faculty of Social Science, Edinburgh University, Competitive Research Fellowship, awarded (not required due to external funding).

Research group

Brice Dassy, PhD Student
Cassandra Rogers, PhD Student

Research collaborators

Dr Paul Warren and Dr Andrew Foulkes, University of Manchester
Prof Rob Allison, York University, Toronto
Dr Phil Duke, Leicester University
Prof Lucia Vaina, Boston University

Invited talks

Conference or Industry

ICCNS, Beijing, China (2010)
Perception & Action workshop, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong (2010)
Motion: From detection to cognition Symposium, ECVP, St Petersburg, Russia (2006)
Rank Prize Meeting, Windermere, UK (2005)
VALVE, Electronic Imaging, SPIE, San Jose, USA (2005)
European Science Foundation Meeting, Italy (2002)
McDonnell-Pew Annual Meeting, North Carolina, USA (2000)
NASA Ames Research Center, California, USA (1998)
Royal Society, UK, (1995)


Bristol Vision Institute, Bristol University, UK (June 2011)
Department of Computer Science, University of Bath, UK (April 2011)
Experimental Psychology, University of Leuven, Belgium (March 2011)
School of Sports Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK (Feb 2011)
Centre for Visual Cognition, University of Southampton, UK (Feb 2011)
Schepens, Harvard Medical School, USA (Sept 2010)
Laboraratory of Sensorimotor Reearch, NIH Bethesda, USA (Sept 2009)
Bristol Vision Institute, Bristol University, UK (May 2009)
School of Optometry, University of Bradford, UK (Feb 2007)
Department of Psychology, Oxford University, UK (2007)
School of Psychology, University of Reading, UK (2006)
Department of Psychology, University of Wales, Swansea, UK (2005)
Cornea to Cortex seminar series, Optometry, Cardiff University, UK (2005)
Brain & Vision Seminar, Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, USA (2003)
Department of Psychology, University of Durham, UK (2002)
Craik Club, University of Cambridge, UK (2002)
Vision Group, Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow, UK (2002)
Vision Group, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK (2002)
Department of Psychology, University of Wales, Bangor, UK (2002)
Department of Psychology, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada (2002)
Centre for Vision Research, York University, Ontario, Canada (2001)
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, USA (2001)
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA (2000)
Department of Psychology, New York University, USA (2000)
Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Plank Institute, Tübingen, Germany (2000)
Department of Physiology, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2000)
Robotics, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, UK (2000)
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, USA (1999)
Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences, Brown University, USA (1999)
Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, UK (1998)
Department of Psychology, University of Newcastle, UK (1998)
Oxyopia, University of California, Berkeley, USA (1998)
Vision Group, Department of Psychology, University of Oxford, UK (1997)


Postgraduate research interests

My work reflects this.  These are current ongoing projects:

Perception of object movement during self-movement
Perception of object movement when stationary
Visual guidance of locomotion
Stereo displays and Virtual Reality
Neurological Rehabilitation and Neglect

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.

Current students

Brice Dassy, PhD Student
Cassandra Rogers, PhD Student

Previous students

Tracey Herlihey (nee Brandwood)
Andreas Jarvstad
Dr Jon Kennedy
Dr Joni Karanka
Dr Rhodri Woodhouse

An interest in Psychology and Computing, led me to study lots of interesting problems in lots of interesting places. I started my adventure during a placement year at LUTCHI (Loughborough University of Technology Computer Human Interaction). I worked with Ronnie Luo and Steve Scrivener and their industrial partners on the LUTCHI colour appearance model. Ronnie and Steve had a contagious enthusiasm and I developed an interest in human vision and in research.

Next was Edinburgh University to work with John Wann on a project investigating perception and action in Virtual Environments. They were exciting times. We were able to conduct some of the first psychophysical research using Virtual Reality (VR) technology (e.g Rushton & Wann, 1999, Nature Neuroscience).

As part of the project we worked with Mon-Williams on some of the visual problems associated with using head-mounted displays (e.g. Mon-Williams et al, 1992, OPO, Rushton et al, 1994, Displays, Wann et al, 1995, Vision Research). My work in this area later led me to spend a year at Hewlett-Packard labs in Bristol working on a “skunkworks” project with colleagues in California to build a lightweight “eye-glass” head-mounted display. I briefly returned to this problem about 5 years ago when I wrote a report for Sony.

In Edinburgh I met David Johnson and Madeleine Grealy and got drawn into work on using VR and exercise in brain injury rehabilitation. With very limited resources we did some of the first work in the area and we managed a few papers, one of which (Grealy et al, 1999, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) has proven very influential.

My primary interest in Edinburgh was on the visual guidance of walking, and I introduced the idea that humans use egocentric cues (Rushton et al, 1998, Current Biology), a challenge to the standard “optic flow” story. Current work with Danlu Cen and Seralynne Vann is pushing into a new direction, looking at the role of allocentric location cues and mental maps.

After Edinburgh, and then Bristol, I stopped briefly in Surrey to work with Mark Bradshaw before heading to the US to work at Cambridge Basic Research, a lab funded by Nissan and tied to MIT and Harvard in Cambridge MA. It was a great lab and I had great colleagues.

After CBR closed, Nissan generously gave me a chunk of money to support my research and I moved to the Centre for Vision Research at York University, Toronto. While I was there I worked on a new problem – robots – as with Rob Allison I tried out some of my ideas about visual guidance of locomotion.

I returned to the UK, to Cardiff University, where I have been ever since. While I’ve been here, there have been a number of additions to my research (e.g. work on decision making Jarvstad et al, 2012, Psychological Science; 2013 PNAS) but the major theme I’ve worked on with Paul Warren (now at Manchester) is how you detect object movement during self-movement (see Rushton & Warren, 2005, Current Biology; Warren & Rushton, 2009, Current Biology).