Flinders PhD researcher Tess Barich is exploring the possibility of the left side of the brain having faster visual threat detection capabilities than the right. If true, computer aids could be developed to compensate for this difference.
Tess’s research is particularly interested in learning how universal and intrinsic threats evoke fear in humans. Her research investigates whether there are differences in the accuracy and reaction time between the left and right sides of the brain when visually detecting a threat.
“For most vertebrae, research has shown there to be a left visual field advantage for detecting threats such as snakes and spiders quicker and more accurately than when the threat appears in the right visual field," she says.
"However, since this is yet to be explored, my project aims to investigate whether the same lateralised effect occurs in humans.”
Visual threat detection is an innate and evolutionary function that refers to our ability to detect threats in our environment. Several types of universal and intrinsic threats can elicit fear in humans, including snakes, spiders, guns and knives.
“If one side of our visual field is slower for detecting potential threats, we could implement computer aids to reduce this deficit,” she says.
“It's important to remember that when we discuss differences between the left and right hemispheres in accuracy and reaction time, the differences could be rather small in the grand scheme of things – 50 milliseconds or so for example.”
She explains that an example of this could be in the form of augmented reality, which could be used by soldiers on the battlefield to faster detect enemy threats.