Neuroscience is the study of the brain and the nervous system. The brain is the organ that enables us to adapt to our environment - to learn. The brain is constantly changing and everything we do changes our brain - this allows us to continuously take account of the environment and store memories to use in the future.

The online games in this section were devised by scientists at the University of Southampton as part of their exhibit at the Summer Science Exhibition 2011. More information about their research can be found on their exhibit page.

The scientists are conducting research about efficiency in security baggage checks. Their findings could be used to reduce the amount of time passengers spend queuing through security control. By monitoring eye movements, the research team has shown that searching for two different colours simultaneously is more difficult than looking for a single specific colour.  One implication of the findings is that searches might be quicker by having two screeners, each tasked with spotting one type of weapon.

Future research will assess the usefulness of 3D images in training participants to interpret X-ray images.

Airport security

At security checkpoints in airports, screeners look at X-ray images of baggage to search for multiple types of weapons, including guns, knives and explosives. Scientists at the University of Southampton are studying the cognitive processes behind the way that people search for targets in a picture containing lots of different colours, and they displayed their research at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition 2011.

bagXray_550

Scientists want to find out how effective people are at searching for images of more than one colour, compared with just a single colour. Searching for more than one type of image is likely to require greater cognitive processing power (you have to hold two images in your memory, not just one), and therefore people may be slower to find two different images.

Scientists can measure reaction times (how long it takes someone to find a target image), how accurate people are at finding the target, and can also use equipment that tracks people's eye movements as they look at an entire image trying to find the targets.

 

Activity: Test your baggage screening ability!

Researchers from the University of Southampton have devised two online games that demonstrate this effect.

  • You can test your reaction times when searching for one or two images in the visual search game.
  • You can use eye-tracking scans to work out whether someone was looking for one or two images in the sight-tracking game.

If searching for two images simultaneously is harder, what would your solution be to make airport screening more effective?