About Dr. Alvarez
Tara Alvarez, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering, is conducting neuroscience research that could help stroke victims recover their vision but also lead to diagnosis of other visual diseases. Alvarez seeks to understand how the brain learns when visually locating objects in three-dimensional (3D) space. Understanding the learning strategies that the human brain uses to control eye movement will also yield insight into the general problem of motor learning. Her research will lead to a better understanding of basic motor control and also discover how dysfunctions in the eyes’ three-dimensional tracking system affect motor learning. In 2005, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Alvarez an NSF Career Award. Alvarez is using part of her NSF grant to enhance the Vision and Neural Engineering Laboratory at NJIT and to design new courses for undergraduates in NJIT’s expanding biomedical engineering program. In addition, Alvarez has developed a one-week course for NJIT’s pre-college FEMME program which teaches grade-school girls, most of whom are minorities, the fundamentals of science, technology and pre-engineering concepts. Alvarez’s research will help people with a visual problem called convergence insufficiency, or the inability to easily fixate the eyes on a near target. A person with convergence insufficiency cannot read or look at a computer screen for more than twenty minutes without getting headaches as well as blurred and double vision. The condition has also been linked to learning disabilities. And as societies become more dependent on prolonged and close-up visual tasks such as computer use, there will be more of a need to help people with such vision problems.
Visit http://web.njit.edu/~alvarez/classes.htm for course syllabi
Neural control of oculomotor movements
Adaptation, learning and plasticity of eye movements
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to understand learning
Application of Independent Component Analysis and other Blind Source Separation techniques to understand oculomotor control
Effects of light energy of the visual tracking system for applications of driving safety and nonlethal military applications
Understanding the mechanism behind eye train
Grants and Funded Research
Alvarez TL (PI) Biswal BB (CoPI) Simone LK (CoPI) Agency: NSF Advance “Development of a flexible visual stimulator for fMRI and home training” ($8000) from 9/2008 to 9/2009 Goal: Develop an instrument for visual stimulation during fMRI experiments that is more flexible than the current instrument.
Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF) “Graduate Research Supplement for Women or Minority Students” ($36,000) from 9/2008 to 9/2009 Goal: Increase participation of underrepresented groups in engineering
Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: Essilor International S. A. “The Vergence Component: An Indicator for Adaptation in Progressive Lens Wear?” ($254,000) from 1/2007 to 1/2010 Goal: Understanding why some individuals can easily adapt to wearing progressive lenses where other cannot
Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award “Mapping the Mind in Search of Oculomotor Learning Strategies” ($400,000) from 3/2005 to 3/2010 Goal: understand oculomotor learning in healthy controls
All journal papers can be found in .pdf format at http://web.njit.edu/~alvarez/UntitledFrameset-3.htm