In the Spring of 2009, Dr. Zeman completed an interdisciplinary Ph.D. incorporating Electrical Engineering (advanced signal processing), Neurobiology, and Cognitive Psychology. Since then, he created Applied Brain and Vision Sciences Inc., that employs new interdisciplinary technologies toward the development of pharmaceuticals and ‘serious’ video games. This concept has since transformed into providing brain function analysis services via an internet portal and the birth of ABV Sciences’ latest concept, the NeuroAccelerator to speed up brain-related research. While his primary perspective on problems is that of an Engineer, his repertoire for problem solving draws from knowledge and conventions from multiple disciplines.
Zeman has a diverse technical skill-set which makes him well-suited for devising new ways to investigate brain function. He has 6+ years experience investigating methods of biometric and behavioural measurement in the fields of neuroscience and engineering. In addition, he has 10+ years experience designing hardware and software systems for scientific and consumer applications. For 2 of these years, Zeman worked as a design engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area. In recent projects he designed systems to acquire eye-movement and EEG data for video game research paradigms, and collected and analyzed eye-movement and EEG data using analysis methods he developed. He is adept at EEG analysis (in principle and in practice), digital signal processing, optimization, random signal analysis, advanced statistics, and data mining.
In addition to his roles at ABV Sciences, Zeman is an adjunct professor in the department of psychology at the University of Victoria as part of his role investigating brain function and cognition at altitude. Zeman also leads a brain-computer interface (BCI) reading group at the University of Victoria that brings together students of multiple disciplines to help them in their understanding of brain function, construction of brain-computer interfaces, and brain-computer game interaction. Zeman is also a co-investigator in brain sciences research conducted at Aarhus University in Denmark with the AU Ideas/MINDLab project called “Foreign Language Acquisition and Neurofeedback Assisted Emulation of the Brain”. He is a professional keynote speaker with Speakwell.com providing audiences with stories about adventure, science, and his personal journey.
The core technology around which ABV Sciences has been founded (and created by Zeman), was developed for the purposes of analyzing brain activity associated with playing video games to identify the complex brain activities that are associated with spatial navigation cognition. Following this, Dr. Zeman created the company, ABV Sciences, which is built around 7 core competencies.
Core Competencies and Values:
1. Data Collection Paradigm Design – creating the optimum set of circumstances to best address our client’s research question.
2. Data Collection – best practices for data collection to obtain best brain function and behavioral analysis results.
3. Analysis of Brain and Behavioral Data – application of MOST-EEG technology to obtain as much information about brain function related to the behavioral paradigm as possible.
4. Development of Data Analysis Technology – Continued development and improvement of our brain function and behavioral analysis technologies and methodologies.
5. A perspective to view the brain as a dynamic system with many interacting parts – we don’t restrict ourselves to a ‘reductionist’ approach to the problem of understanding brain function, but apply methods to appropriately characterize it as a learning system with multiple interacting parts.
6. Understanding Our Client’s Challenges and Objectives – First applying the effort to understand our customer’s objectives and then tailoring our approach to addressing the objective has been what has made us successful thus far and this is a value which we continue to apply in our work.
7. Merging knowledge and practices from multiple disciplines – Good brain science incorporates expertise from multiple disciplines and we believe that in order to achieve best possible results, persons from all disciplines involved should have a part in improving our practices and technology. Hence, we support and encourage multi-disciplinary teams in our investigations. This not only improves what we can deliver to clients, but also improves our communication with clients.
A description of Zeman’s past investigative work with the University of Victoria examining the brain activity and eye-movement associated with spatial navigation is posted on the University of Victoria website (http://www.ece.uvic.ca/~pzeman/projectdetail_eyetrackingandeeg.htm (new window)). In these investigations, spatial navigation behavior and associated brain function and eye-movement was examined using a 1st-person perspective video game environment based on the Unreal ™ gaming platform.
Consultant: Sharon Ann Lee, M.Sc.
Sharon Ann Lee’s current collaborative work with the University of Victoria concerns the application of (i) eye movement tracking and (ii) virtual environment design to study human spatial behaviour. Her primary discipline is Behavioural Psychology with much of her advanced work examining spatial navigation behaviour in an interdisciplinary environment.
Sharon has over 7 years experience in the field of psychological research, with an emphasis on the links between functional neuroanatomy, cognition and behaviour. This experience allows her to investigate brain-behaviour relationships from novel perspectives. She has done research with traumatic brain injury survivors and individuals with other types of acquired brain injuries and is therefore familiar with the ethical requirements for doing research with human populations, both clinical and non-clinical. Sharon has designed and carried out several novel research studies in the field of cognitive neuroscience and has expertise in data collection and analysis using quantitative statistical methods. Her professional development as a researcher has included supervisory roles and roles as a university instructor of research methods and biopsychology. She has collaborated on peer review science writing projects and has written multiple successful grant applications. Her technical expertise includes the practice of collecting both eye movement and EEG data, working knowledge of video game editing applications used to develop virtual environments, organization and management of data collection sessions, experience with research databases, experience with the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS®) and extensive experience with the interpretation of behavioural data.
Core competencies and values:
1. Development of research designs
This involves applying behavioural research methods to develop paradigms that best address research questions.
2. Data collection
Knowledge of research settings and human populations will be applied to maximize the outcome of brain/behaviour studies.
3. Data analysis
Application of inferential statistics to the results of brain/behaviour studies in order to maximize understanding of the brain and its relationship to the behaviour studied. Analyses may focus on the effects of injury and drugs or on the interaction of brain activity with interfaces such as computer games or internet websites.
The emphasis is on a high quality of communication through clarity of writing and presentation of results. Writing expertise may be applied to research papers, technical reports, formal presentations and ‘lay person’ summaries of research outcomes.
5. Collaborative research
Inter-disciplinary approaches are deemed to provide the best opportunity for achieving useful results. A strong effort is made to incorporate findings from different disciplines in the development of useful research paradigms. Examples of these disciplines include neuroscience, biopsychology, neuropsychology and neuropsychopharmacology.
Sample abstracts of Sharon Ann Lee’s (formerly S.A. Livingstone) peer reviewed research:
Goodrich-Hunsaker, N.J., Livingstone, S.A.*(now Lee), Skelton, R.W., & Hopkins, R.O. (2010). Spatial deficits in a virtual water maze in amnesic participants with hippocampal damage. Hippocampus, 20, 481-491.
The Morris water maze is a standard paradigm for the testing of hippocampal function in laboratory animals. Virtual versions of the Morris water maze are now available and can be used to assess spatial learning and memory ability in both healthy and brain injured participants. To evaluate the importance of the hippocampus in spatial learning and memory, we tested five amnesic participants with selective hippocampal damage using a virtual water maze called the Arena Maze. The amnesic participants with hippocampal damage were impaired on the invisible platform (place) task that required them to use distal cues, but were able to navigate almost as well as comparison participants when the invisible platform was marked by a single proximal cue. These results not only confirm that the hippocampus plays a necessary role in human navigation in large-scale environments but also provides a new link between the mnemonic and navigational roles of the hippocampus.
Livingstone, S.*(now Lee) & Skelton, R.W. (2007). Virtual environment navigation tasks and the assessment of cognitive deficits in individuals with brain injury. Behavioural Brain Research, 185, 21-31.
Navigation in real environments is often impaired by traumatic brain injury (TBI). These deficits in wayfinding appear to be due to disruption of cognitive processes underlying navigation and may in turn be due to damage to the hippocampus and frontal lobes. These wayfinding problems after TBI were investigated using a virtual simulation of a Morris Water Maze (MWM), a standard test of hippocampal function in laboratory animals. The virtual environment consisted of a large virtual arena in a very large virtual room whose walls provided views of a naturalistic landscape. Eleven community-dwelling TBI survivors and 12 comparison participants, matched for gender, age and education were tested to see if they could find a location in the arena marked by one of the following: (a) a visible platform, (b) a single proximal object, (c) a single proximal object among seven other distracter objects, or (d) distal features inside and outside the room. The proximal objects allowed participants to use egocentric (body-centered) navigational strategies that rely on relatively simple stimulus-response associations. The absence of proximal cues forced the participants to rely on distal features of the environment (room walls, landscape elements) and tested their ability to use allocentric (world-based) navigational strategies requiring cognitive mapping. Results indicated that the navigation of TBI survivors was not impaired when the proximal cues were present but was impaired when proximal cues were absent. These results provide more evidence that the navigational deficit after TBI is due to an inability to form, remember or use cognitive maps.
Consultant: Sunny Mahajan, B.Eng. (B.Sc.) (Linked-In)
Sunny Mahajan graduated from the Electrical Engineering program at the University of Victoria in April 2008 during which he acquired 3+ years experience developing advanced EMG and EEG analysis methodologies. Sunny developed skills in cutting edge multidisciplinary scientific research working with Dr. Zeman developing EEG and EMG analysis methods and working with CanAssist, an organization that develops assistive technologies for persons with disabilities. This work lead to a full-time research engineer placement with the CanAssist lab at the University of Victoria.
During his work with Dr. Zeman and CanAssist, Sunny also acquired experience designing novel paradigms for EEG experiments and visual and statistical analysis of neurophysiological data while working as a research assistant under Dr. Jennifer Hill Karrer . This novel research was aimed to develop early diagnostic methods for down syndrome, ADHD, ADS and fragile-x syndrome.
The technologies developed during these vocations include: a hands-free computer mouse, a facial muscle activity -based communication system, and with Dr. Zeman created a new EEG source localization method. Sunny worked with Dr. Zeman on EEG-source localization combined radar tracking methods like beamforming and neural networks like ICA to analyze EEG data. The method developed is used to analyze EEG data and extract temporal activity of different parts of the brain.
Recently Sunny designed a low-cost high-accuracy novel calibration procedure for Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs). Unlike conventional calibration methods that use electro-mechanical equipment for data collection, his method uses a passive simple pendulum. These IMUs can be used for high-accuracy measurements in experiments involving human movement analysis.
Core competencies and values:
1. Innovation in Biometric data analysis:
- EEG – Source localization methods with application in brain-computer interface (BCI) technology
- EMG – Design of a stand-alone muscle activity -based communication systems
- IMU – Design of a low cost, high accuracy calibration procedures for IMUs
2. Providing simple solutions to complicated problems – Conceptualizing the problem and solving with simplified mathematical modeling
3. Design of novel paradigms and experiments for biometric data collection.
Applied Brain and Vision Sciences was founded to change the way we understand brain function and treat brain diseases. Simply, we believe there is a ‘better’ way to diagnose and treat brain disease and dysfunction. We believe that through appropriate therapies and objective measures of functional brain activity during the course of these therapies, we can significantly impact lives.
Continuous Research and Development
Develop-Apply-Improve is our philosophy. As an organization, we remain competitive by continually improving our algorithms while learning about brain function, and providing clients with as much useful information about how their product affects brain function as possible.