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I have always been fascinated by the brain – how it gives rise to our perceptions, thoughts, emotions and behaviour. I therefore chose to study the cognitive neurosciences, which I did at University College Utrecht, a Liberal Arts and Sciences College that is part of the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands). Here, research projects with Prof. Astrid Kappers and Prof. Frans Verstraten sparked my interest in using perceptual processes to study cognition.

After a brief appointment as Junior Research Consultant at Intomart GfK, conducting consumer-related eye-tracking research, I moved to Oxford to enrol in the Wellcome Trust DPhil Programme in Neuroscience. Lab rotations gave me the opportunity to explore the cellular basis of sensory processing and plasticity in the lab of Dr. Colin Akerman, and to investigate potential ways of translating perceptual research into clinical practice in the lab of Prof. Chris Kennard and Dr. Stephen Hicks.

I went on to do my DPhil project in the lab of Dr. Akerman, where I investigated the influence of the visual environment on the early development of the visual system of the brain. Studying the plasticity of the brain at the cellular level, I described a previously unknown mechanism for individual neurons to become active contributors to information processing.

I have now renewed my collaboration with Prof. Kennard and Dr. Hicks, working on the development and experimental validation of a set of ‘smart glasses’ aimed to improve the independence of the visually impaired. Combining my interests in human visual perception, translational research and the physiology of neural plasticity, I am interested in making sure that people benefit maximally from the smart glasses, as well as in using the glasses to answer questions about the neural processes underlying human perception.

Joram van Rheede

Postdoctoral Research Associate

TEDx - Showing less, seeing more

My presentation on our 'Smart Specs' for the visually impaired

Research Summary


As a Research Associate in the OcuLab, I work on the development and experimental validation of a set of 'smart' electronic glasses for the visually impaired. In most cases of visual impairment, even those that meet the criteria for legal blindness, a degree of residual vision remains. By using computer vision strategies to reduce the complex visual scene to its most basic, task-relevant elements, the smart glasses allow severely visually impaired people to get more information from their residual vision, and maintain a greater degree of independence.

In the future, I hope to combine this work with my interest in the processes underlying sensory processing in the brain. The smart glasses provide a unique opportunity to study the impact of altered visual input on the visual system. I plan to investigate how rehabilitation with the smart glasses affects visual information processing, and to try to improve rehabilitation exploring strategies to increase the adaptability of the brain. This work will be of potential benefit to the thousands of people with visual impairment in the UK, while aiming to provide new insights into fundamental aspects of the neural basis of perception.

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