This report aims to outline the various activities and experiences I had when doing my secondment at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam between May and July 2016 (not continuous). During this secondment, I had the opportunity to run my own experiment on the sensory integration deficits that occur during healthy aging. I have designed this experiment with the help of my supervisors (Anne-Marie Brouwer and Petra Siemonsma), my promotor (Jan van Erp) and Eli Brenner who is part of the Faculty of Human Movement Sciences at the VU Amsterdam. I have recruited younger and older participants and had them performing a hitting task on a back-projection screen in the VU lab.
The main objectives of the secondment were to develop and run an experiment in collaboration with another institution than TNO and use material that was not available at TNO such as the large back-projection screen and the optotrak seen on the photo below. This secondment was an opportunity to collaborate with other scientists that work on similar topics of research but use different approaches to answer the questions.
During this secondment, I had the opportunity to participate in various activities:
My supervisors, my promotor, Eli Brenner and I had meetings in order to develop the setup and design of the experiment. Different ideas were shared during these meetings and we ended up with an experiment that suited everybody.
Eli Brenner and some other lab members showed me and helped me learn how to use the different technologies that I wanted to use in my experiment (back-projection screen, optotrak, softwares…). I had to test and adjust various properties of the experiment such as the size of the different visual cues on the screen and the timing to meet what we discussed during the meetings. I was able to run some pilot experiments with lab members as participants. Their feedbacks and results were very useful to adjust the parameters of the test.
I run my own experiment in the lab. Most of the participants were recruited via TNO but I had to look for younger participants in the lab. In the end, twenty healthy young adults (age 18-34) and twenty-four healthy older adults (age 60-82) were asked to tap on discs that were moving downwards on a screen with their finger. The main question of the experiment was to see if older adults were more influenced by the illusion we created than younger adults.
Besides activities related to my own experiment, I had the opportunity to participate in the lab daily routine. I took part in some lab members experiments as participant. I went to lab meetings where I presented my work and what I was doing in the VU, and participated in journal clubs. Additionally, I had the opportunity to discuss with a lot of different people about science and my work and received useful feedbacks and ideas for future research.
This secondment led to positive outputs for my PhD, I wrote a scientific article in collaboration with Eli Brenner that has been published in the special issue Multisensory Processing and Aging of the journal Multisensory Research (de Dieuleveult, Brouwer, Siemonsma, van Erp, & Brenner, 2018). I have also written an abstract for the Vision Sciences Society conference and got accepted for a poster presentation that took place in St Pete Beach (FL, USA) in May 2017.
In conclusion, this secondment was rich in learning and outcomes. This was the first experiment I was doing in my PhD, be able to develop it and run it in collaboration with this lab was very valuable for me. I got a lot of support and help. Before the secondment, my supervisors and I had already developed a test that we wanted to run but the expertise and ideas of Eli Brenner improved the setup a lot. He had other relevant questions and better ways to do it. His thoughts were very interesting for the scientific paper we wrote together and for the continuation of my PhD. Additionally, I met many interesting people and learn to work with them. They showed me the city of Amsterdam as well.
Picture: Photo of me working in the lab (credits: Jacob Nelson and Cristina de la Malla)
de Dieuleveult, A. L., Brouwer, A.-M., Siemonsma, P. C., van Erp, J. B. F., & Brenner, E. (2018). Aging and Sensitivity to Illusory Target Motion With or Without Secondary Tasks. Multisensory Research, 31(3–4), 227–249.