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Trinity College Dublin

Personal Information
Name Newell, Fiona
Main Department Psychology
College Title Professor
College Tel +353 1 896 8402
My main research objective is to elucidate the cortical and behavioural processes involved in high-level human perception across the main sensory systems. This interest is motivated by the fact that perception is not a fixed concept since it is significantly modulated by information from other senses and other contextual factors such as past experience, internal predictions, on-going motor behaviour and the working range of the sensory system. Furthermore, Perception is the basis of Cognition, and an understanding of the mechanisms behind how we perceive provides a better route to understanding other high-level human functions. To date, my team and I have begun to shed light on some of the behavioural principles of how the senses interact with one another to form a unified perception of our world. The current challenge is to provide a better understanding of the cortical and genetic mechanisms behind these principles. To this end my team are conducting a series of studies investigating cortical correlates of multisensory perception using neuroimaging (i.e. fMRI and EEG) technology and, in collaboration with colleagues the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at TCD we are investating behavioural and neural correlates of synaesthesia. Lately, I have begun to develop my research towards a better understanding of multisensory processing in the normal, damaged and ageing brain through collaborations with colleagues in the School of Medicine, TCD. Finally, in collaboration with colleagues in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering, we are currently investigating how virtual displays of crowd scenes can be improved by multisensory stimulation.
Membership of Professional Institutions, Associations, Societies
Details Date From Date To
Member of IEEE Robotics Jan 2008
Experimental Psychological Society, UK 2000
Psychonomics Society, USA 2000
British Neuroscience Association 1999
European Society for Cognitive Psychology 2002
Awards and Honours
Award Date
Fulbright Scholar 2011-12
Fellow, Trinity College Dublin 2005
'Addison Wheeler' Research Fellow in Life Sciences, University of Durham 1995-1999
Description of Research Interests
Multisensory perception; Synaesthesia; Object recognition; Scene recognition; Face perception and facial attractiveness; Perception in visual impaired individuals; Dynamic object recognition; Visual, haptic and auditory perception; Perception of crowds; Perception of emotion; Ageing and multisensory perception.
Research Interests
Research Projects
Project title Socialising Agents: endowing virtual agents with multisensory social skills to increase appeal and user engagement
Summary There is an increasing demand for more realism in virtual characters, particularly with virtual agents in games designed to interact with the user and in entertainment designed to evoke intense emotions. However, computer graphics experts have little understanding of what underlies our preferences for certain perceptual features over others (such as facial expressions, voice intonations or bodily gestures). In a novel inter-disciplinary project combining computer graphics and social cognitive neuroscience, we will apply principles of human perceptual processing to endow virtual agents with maximum social appeal.
Funding Agency Science Foundation Ireland
Programme PI
Type of Project
Date from July, 2011
Date to June, 2015
Person Months 192

Project title VERVE
Summary VERVE is a research project that aims to develop new technologies to support the treatment of people who are at risk of social exclusion, either because of fear and apathy associated with ageing, or because of a neurological disorder.
Funding Agency EU
Programme FP7
Type of Project Integrated Project
Date from 2011
Date to 2014
Person Months 72

Project title The development of a novel, low-cost intervention games system designed to improve physical and mental well being in older adults
Summary Barriers to healthy ageing include declines in both physical (e.g. postural control) and mental processes (e.g. cognitive decline). As these processes are interconnected one of the main objectives of this project is to develop intervention programmes that train the body and the brain at the same time and are adapted to the needs of older adults. In this collaborative project between QUB and TCD we will create games that profile balance control (QUB expertise), dual tasking, selective attention and sensory integration (TCD expertise). The objective is to create a holistic approach that will result in a new, fun and engaging way for older adults to master new gaming based skills that will improve physical and mental well being.
Funding Agency CARDI: Centre for ageing research and development in Ireland
Programme Research Project
Type of Project Collaborative
Date from March, 2011
Date to October, 2011
Person Months 7

Project title TRIL: Technology Research for Independent Living
Summary The Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) project is a large-scale collaboration between Intel Corporation, GE and research teams at UCD, TCD, NUI Galway and St James’s Hospital, Dublin. This multi-disciplinary research centre focuses on discovering how technology can be used to facilitate older people living independent lives in the location of their choice.
Funding Agency Intel Corps., GE and Industrial Development Agency
Type of Project Collaborative
Date from Dec, 2008
Date to Dec, 2011
Person Months 84

Project title Cross-Border Research and Development Funding Programme
Summary Collaborative project between ISCS in Ulster University and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience to conduct neuroimaging on older adults
Funding Agency DEL-NI:
Programme “Strengthening the All-Island Research Base”
Type of Project Basic research
Date from July, 2011
Date to June 2014
Person Months 36

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Publications and Other Research Outputs
Peer Reviewed
Synaesthesia, meaning, and multi-lingual speakers in, editor(s)Julia Simner and Edward Hubbard , Oxford Handbook of Synaesthesia, Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp181 - 204, [Newell, F.N.]
Barrett, M.M., Doheny, E.P., Setti, A., Maguinness, C., Foran, T.G., Kenny, R.A. & Newell, F.N., Reduced vision selectively impairs spatial updating in fall prone older adults, Multisensory Research, 1, (1), 2013, p69 - 94
Pasqualotto A, Finucane CM, Newell FN, Ambient visual information confers a context-specific, long-term benefit on memory for haptic scenes., Cognition, 128, (3), 2013, p363-379
Rose EJ, Morris DW, Fahey C, Robertson IH, Greene C, O'Doherty J, Newell FN, Garavan H, McGrath J, Bokde A, Tropea D, Gill M, Corvin AP, Donohoe G., The effect of the neurogranin schizophrenia risk variant rs12807809 on brain structure and function., Twin Research and Human Genetics, 15, (3), 2012, p296 - 303
Notes: [PMID: 22856365]
TARA - Full Text  DOI
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Last Updated:15-SEP-2014