Guided Viewing: An Eye Tracking Approach to Increase Memory and Reduce Anxiety

Fehlmann, Bernhard. Guided Viewing: An Eye Tracking Approach to Increase Memory and Reduce Anxiety. 2020, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Psychology.


Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/78701/

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Visual exploration, the way we strategically guide our gaze through the environment, is greatly affected by cognitive states like the current focus of attention, goals and knowledge. The causal link between cognition and viewing has first been described and demonstrated in humans in the 1960s, and researchers have tried to further characterize it ever since. The advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has – in combination with eye tracking – considerably benefitted the understanding of this link, as it allowed to study its neuronal under-pinnings. A key role has thereby been attributed to regions centered around the hippocampus as part of the medial temporal lobe (MTL), orchestrating visual exploration based on previous experience.
However, while it is well-established that visual exploration depends on cognitive states, it is unclear if cognitive states equally depend on visual exploration. To close this gap, the aim of this thesis was to investigate if viewing can be guided to affect aspects of cognition, and more specifically, if this can be used to (1) increase memory and (2) decrease anxiety.
In a first study, Fehlmann, Coynel et al. (2020), we analyzed data of a picture encoding task performed by 967 healthy subjects during fMRI and simultaneous eye tracking. We repli-cated and generalized the finding of a triadic correlation between individual visual exploration patterns (i.e. eye fixation frequency and location), brain activation in the MTL and subsequent memory performance. In a second experiment, we experimentally altered visual exploration patterns in an independent population of 64 subjects. We thereby showed that both the fixation frequency and location can be causally manipulated by guided viewing conditions to affect memory performance.
In a second study, Fehlmann, Müller, et al. (2020), we investigated the intervention po-tential of guided viewing to reduce fear in 89 participants suffering from public speaking anx-iety (PSA). We thereby targeted gaze avoidance, a potential key factor in the etiology and maintenance of the condition. The repeated use of a stand-alone, smartphone- and virtual reality (VR)-based mutual gaze training was effective in reducing gaze avoidance as well as the fear of public speaking in real-life speech situations.
In conclusion, the thesis showcases two studies that used guided viewing as a tool to affect cognitive states. The gained insights add to the knowledge about the interplay between viewing and cognition in general, and the causal effect of viewing on cognition in particular. The described phenomenon has great relevance for neuroscientific research and great potential for the clinical practice.
Advisors:de Quervain, Dominique J.-F.
Committee Members:Papassotiropoulos, Andreas
Faculties and Departments:03 Faculty of Medicine > Bereich Psychiatrie (Klinik) > Erwachsenenpsychiatrie UPK > Kognitive Neurowissenschaften (de Quervain)
03 Faculty of Medicine > Departement Klinische Forschung > Bereich Psychiatrie (Klinik) > Erwachsenenpsychiatrie UPK > Kognitive Neurowissenschaften (de Quervain)
07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Forschungsbereich Klinische Psychologie und Neurowissenschaften > Cognitive Neuroscience (de Quervain)
UniBasel Contributors:de Quervain, Dominique J.-F. and Papassotiropoulos, Andreas
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:13753
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:V, 142
Identification Number:
  • urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-bau-diss137533
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:01 Jan 2022 02:30
Deposited On:29 Oct 2020 12:39

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