UNDERSTANDING BRAIN FUNCTION

Tara Alvarez, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is studying how the brain divides and controls its tasks to send and receive information to better understand how the neurophysiological system operates. She studies vergence eye movements in which each of the eyes moves in opposite directions, as for instance, in driving, when objects are moving both toward and away from the driver. She examines prediction, in which the eye moves in anticipation of an object coming into view.

By applying advanced digital signal processing techniques to the study of the oculomotor control of eye movements, Dr. Alvarez hopes to further the understanding of how visual information is processed by the brain. This research is the basis of virtual reality, which can lead to sophistication in machines as well as the way in which humans interface with them. She will also use the technology to analyze electroencephalogram signals to better diagnose seizures, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease.

Currently, she is working in cooperation with researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, she studies how we see objects in depth, using a state-of-the-art 3.0 Tesla functional MRI located at UMDNJ. With funding from Essilor, Inc., she is currently studying why some people can easily learn to use to progressive eyeglass lenses and some cannot.  She is also researching the underlying mechanisms of eye strain.