Benjamin Ultan Cowley

Benjamin Ultan Cowley
University of Helsinki | HY · Faculty of Educational Sciences

PhD, Assoc Professor
Leading HiPerCog research group in the study of high performance cognition

About

91
Publications
73,330
Reads
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1,351
Citations
Introduction
Benjamin Ultan Cowley obtained a Bachelors in ICT from Trinity College Dublin in 2003, and defended his PhD in Computer Science at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, in 2009. Cowley has investigated psychophysiology and learning in serious games; coordinated a clinical trial on neurofeedback therapy for attentional disorder; studied the cognitive neuroscience of attention and collaboration in human-computer interaction. Ongoing research interests centre on high performance cognition.
Additional affiliations
September 2019 - present
University of Helsinki
Position
  • PI
June 2017 - August 2019
University of Helsinki
Position
  • Researcher
April 2014 - May 2017
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
Position
  • Researcher
Education
November 2005 - November 2009
Ulster University
Field of study
  • "Player Modelling and Profiling for Computer and Video Games"
September 1998 - May 2003
Trinity College Dublin
Field of study
  • Information and Communications Technology

Publications

Publications (91)
Article
Inter-brain synchronization during social interaction has been linked with several positive phenomena, including closeness, cooperation, prosociality, and team performance. However, the temporal dynamics of inter-brain synchronization during collaboration are not yet fully understood. Furthermore, with collaboration increasingly happening online, t...
Conference Paper
Flow is the experience of deep absorption in a demanding, intrin-sically-motivating task conducted with skill. We consider how to measure behavioural correlates of flow from fine-grained process data extracted from programming environments. Specifically, we propose measuring affective factors related to flow non-intrusively based on log data. Prese...
Article
Full-text available
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is understudied, especially regarding neural mechanisms such as oscillatory control of attention sampling. We report an electroencephalography (EEG) study of such cortical mechanisms, in ADHD-diagnosed adults during administration of Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), a gold-standard con...
Article
Full-text available
In adults, music and speech share many neurocognitive functions, but how do they interact in a developing brain? We compared the effects of music and foreign language training on auditory neurocognition in Chinese children aged 8–11 years. We delivered group-based training programs in music and foreign language using a randomized controlled trial....
Article
Full-text available
Flow is an intrinsically motivating (i.e. ‘autotelic’) psychological state of complete absorption in moment-to-moment activity that can occur when one performs a task whose demands match one's skill-level. Flow theory proposes that Flow causally leads to better performance, but empirical evidence for this assumption is mixed. Recent evidence sugges...
Article
Full-text available
Neurofeedback for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has long been studied as an alternative to medication, promising non-invasive treatment with minimal side-effects and sustained outcome. However, debate continues over the efficacy of neurofeedback, partly because existing evidence for efficacy is mixed and often non-specific, with u...
Article
Full-text available
In a novel experimental setting, we augmented a variation of traditional compassion meditation with our custom-built VR environment for multiple concurrent users. The presence of another user’s avatar in shared virtual space supports social interactions and provides an active target for evoked compassion. The system incorporates respiration and bra...
Preprint
Full-text available
We report a psychometric scale validation study on a Finnish translation of the Flow Short Scale (FSS). Data from 200 Finnish speaking participants were collected via the Prolific Academic platform. To analyse the scale's factorial structure, we performed Mokken scale analysis, Parallel Analysis, Very Simple Structures analysis and a standard Confi...
Article
Full-text available
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is characterized by a complex pattern of abnormalities in resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) and network dysfunction, which can potentially be ameliorated by rehabilitation. In our previous randomized controlled trial, we found that a 3-month neurological music therapy intervention enhanced executive function...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Players exhibit varying behaviour from each other when playing games. Indeed, a player's own behaviour will change as they learn to play and changing behaviour may also be indicative of when they are prematurely about to quit playing permanently (known as 'churn'). There can be many reasons for player churn including finding a game too easy, too ha...
Article
Full-text available
In this Research Topic, High Performance Cognition (HPC) emerges as a generic term for the study of human performance and skill acquisition, from novices on an unfamiliar task (as most psychological experiments) to experts displaying superior levels of domain-specific skill. We received 11 pieces of empirical work across several experimental tasks...
Chapter
Full-text available
General game-playing artificial intelligence (AI) has recently seen important advances due to the various techniques known as ‘deep learning’. However, in terms of human-computer interaction, the advances conceal a major limitation: these algorithms do not incorporate any sense of what human players find meaningful in games.
Preprint
Full-text available
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is understudied, especially regarding neural mechanisms such as oscillatory control of attention sampling. We report an EEG study of such cortical oscillations, in ADHD-diagnosed adults taking a continuous performance test that measures the ability to sustain attention and inhibit impulsivit...
Preprint
Full-text available
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is characterized by a complex pattern of abnormalities in resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC), and neuropathology focused on network dysfunction. Here we report a fMRI study of brain network changes induced during a randomised controlled trial of neurological music therapy in 23 moderate/severe TBI patients. Ou...
Article
Full-text available
Poker is a game of skill and chance involving economic decision-making under uncertainty. It is also a complex but well-defined real-world environment with a clear rule-structure. As such, poker has strong potential as a model system for studying high-stakes, high-risk expert performance. Poker has been increasingly used as a tool to study decision...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Physiological arousal can be a signal of attention, reflecting predictability and significance of stimuli or events. We explored temporal patterns in task-related physiological arousal and their connection to performance in repeated trials of a visuomotor steering task. Participants (N = 9) played a total of forty trials of a high-speed steering ta...
Article
Full-text available
Flow is a state of “optimal experience” that arises when skill and task demands match. Flow has been well studied in psychology using a range of self-report and experimental methods; with most research typically focusing on how Flow is elicited by a particular task. Here, we focus on how the experience of Flow changes during task skill development....
Preprint
Full-text available
Flow is a state of `optimal experience' that arises when skill and task demands match. Flow has been well studied in psychology using a range of self-report and experimental methods; with most research typically focusing on how Flow is elicited by a particular task. Here, we focus on how the experience of Flow changes during task skill development....
Article
Full-text available
Abstract Sustained attention plays an important role in everyday life, for work, learning, or when affected by attention disorders. Studies of the neural correlates of attention commonly treat sustained attention as an isolated construct, measured with computerized continuous performance tests. However, in any ecological context, sustained attentio...
Article
Full-text available
Existing tools for the preprocessing of EEG data provide a large choice of methods to suitably prepare and analyse a given dataset. Yet it remains a challenge for the average user to integrate methods for batch processing of the increasingly large datasets of modern research, and compare methods to choose an optimal approach across the many possibl...
Article
Full-text available
Collaboration is a complex phenomenon, where intersubjective dynamics can greatly affect the productive outcome. Evaluation of collaboration is thus of great interest, and can potentially help achieve better outcomes and performance. However, quantitative measurement of collaboration is difficult, because much of the interaction occurs in the inter...
Article
Full-text available
Serious games are interventions with potential for tackling pressing issues by raising awareness and inciting behaviour change. However, it is unclear which design choices maximise efficient production or intervention efficacy. For example, health games and games tackling social crises may have radically different audiences. Furthermore, players of...
Preprint
Understanding and measuring sustained attention is important for basic research and applications. Measurement and testing with computerised continuous performance tests is common. When studying the neural correlates of attention, such tests aim to isolate the construct of sustained attention. However, in any ecologically-valid context, sustained at...
Preprint
Full-text available
Understanding and measuring sustained attention is important for basic research and applications. Measurement and testing with computerised continuous performance tests is common. When studying the neural correlates of attention, such tests aim to isolate the construct of sustained attention. However, in any ecologically-valid context, sustained at...
Article
Full-text available
Electroencephalography (EEG) is a rich source of information regarding brain function. However, the preprocessing of EEG data can be quite complicated, due to several factors. For example, the distinction between true neural sources and noise is indeterminate; EEG data can also be very large. The various factors create a large number of subjective...
Article
Full-text available
Digital monitoring of physiological signals can allow computer systems to adapt unobtrusively to users, so as to enhance personalised ‘smart’ interactions. In recent years, physiological computing has grown as a research field, and it is increasingly considered in diverse applications, ranging from specialised work contexts to consumer electronics....
Presentation
Full-text available
Brief overview of first stage results of pair programming physiology study
Chapter
Full-text available
The application of psychophysiology in human-computer interaction is a growing field with significant potential for future smart personalised systems. Working in this emerging field requires comprehension of an array of physiological signals and analysis techniques. Respiration is unique among physiological signals in that it can be consciously con...
Chapter
Full-text available
The application of psychophysiology in human-computer interaction is a growing field with significant potential for future smart personalised systems. Working in this emerging field requires comprehension of an array of physiological signals and analysis techniques. Methods to study central nervous system (CNS) are usually expensive and laborious....
Chapter
Full-text available
The application of psychophysiology in human-computer interaction is a growing field with significant potential for future smart personalised systems. Working in this emerging field requires comprehension of an array of physiological signals and analysis techniques. Event-related potentials, termed ERPs, are a stimulus- or action-locked waveform in...
Chapter
Full-text available
The application of psychophysiology in human-computer interaction is a growing field with significant potential for future smart personalised systems. Working in this emerging field requires comprehension of an array of physiological signals and analysis techniques. Electromyography (EMG)is a useful signal to estimate the emotional context of indiv...
Poster
Full-text available
Background: Recognition of objects and their context relies heavily on the integrated functioning of global and local visual processing, which has been linked to cortical hemispheric asymmetry. In a realistic setting such as work, this processing becomes a sustained activity, implying a consequent interaction with executive functions. Motivation: T...
Chapter
Full-text available
The application of psychophysiology in human-computer interaction is a growing field with significant potential for future smart personalised systems. Working in this emerging field requires comprehension of an array of physiological signals and analysis techniques. One of the most widely used signals is electrodermal activity, or EDA, also known a...
Preprint
Full-text available
We present the last in a series of three academic essays which deal with the question of how and why to build a generalized player model. We propose that a general player model needs parameters for subjective experience of play, including: player psychology, game structure, and actions of play. Based on this proposition, we pose three linked resear...
Article
Full-text available
It is known that periods of intense social interaction result in shared patterns in collaborators’ physiological signals. However, applied quantitative research on collaboration is hindered due to scarcity of objective metrics of teamwork effectiveness. Indeed, especially in the domain of productive, ecologically-valid activity such as programming,...
Data
Report on EDA data recorded in the measurements. Information on four (two dyads) successful EDA recordings in the paradigm. Appendix exemplifies the potential in using EDA signals for compliance assessment in field studies. (PDF)
Data
EDA results from example dyads. (TIF)
Data
Example script and questionnaire data. Scripts for replicating the results. (ZIP)
Article
Full-text available
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common cause of inherited intellectual disability and a variant of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The FXS population is quite heterogeneous with respect to comorbidities, which implies the need for a personalized medicine approach, relying on biomarkers or endophenotypes to guide treatment. There is evidence th...
Preprint
Full-text available
EEG is a rich source of information regarding brain functioning, and is the most lightweight and affordable method of brain imaging. However, the pre-processing of EEG data is quite complicated and most existing tools present the experimenter with a large choice of methods for analysis, but no framework for method comparison to choose an optimal ap...
Article
Full-text available
As player demographics broaden it has become important to understand variation in player types. Improved player models can help game designers create games that accommodate a range of playing styles, and may also facilitate the design of systems that detect the currently-expressed player type and adapt dynamically in real-time. Existing approaches...
Preprint
Full-text available
General game playing artificial intelligence has recently seen important advances due to the various techniques known as 'deep learning'. However the advances conceal equally important limitations in their reliance on: massive data sets; fortuitously constructed problems; and absence of any human-level complexity, including other human opponents. O...
Article
Full-text available
Background We report a randomised controlled clinical trial of neurofeedback therapy intervention for ADHD/ADD in adults. We focus on internal mechanics of neurofeedback learning, to elucidate the primary role of cortical self-regulation in neurofeedback. We report initial results; more extensive analysis will follow.Methods Trial has two phases: i...
Preprint
Full-text available
We present the first in a series of three academic essays which deal with the question of how to build a generalized player model. We begin with a proposition: a general model of players requires parameters for the subjective experience of play, including at least: player psychology, game structure, and actions of play. Based on this proposition, w...
Preprint
Full-text available
We present the second in a series of three academic essays which deal with the question of how to build a generalized player model. We begin with a proposition: a general model of players requires parameters for the subjective experience of play, including at least three areas: a) player psychology, b) game structure, and c) actions of play. Based...
Research
Full-text available
I Kivikangas, J. M., Chanel, G., Cowley, B., Ekman, I., Salminen, M., Järvelä, S., & Ravaja, N. (2011). A review of the use of psychophysiological methods in game research. Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds, 3(3), 181–199. II Kivikangas, J. M. (in press). Affect channel model of evaluation in the context of digital games. In G. Yannakakis and K....
Article
Full-text available
Background Recognition of objects and their context relies heavily on the integrated functioning of global and local visual processing. In a realistic setting such as work, this processing becomes a sustained activity, implying a consequent interaction with executive functions. Motivation There have been many studies of either global-local attentio...
Raw Data
Supporting material for the game Green My Place
Raw Data
Supporting material for the game Green My Place
Raw Data
Supporting material for the game Green My Place
Technical Report
Appendix I covers much of the core game idea with much less content than D3.6.
Technical Report
D3.6 is the Green My Place design document. It is a great example of HOW NOT TO WRITE A DESIGN DOC! It is way too long, filled with text, and was developed over several iterations so that it rambles and is hard to follow, not having been written all at once. Its main function was to satisfy the project management, who liked long documents.
Technical Report
Appendix IV is a complete guide to the metagame scoring system.
Technical Report
D5.1 is written to allow an engineer unfamiliar with the project to pick up the fundamentals of the system without having to learn by trial and error. Since the source code is no longer available, this is included merely for reference.
Book
Full-text available
Digital monitoring of physiological signals can allow computer systems to adapt unobtrusively to users, so as to enhance personalised ‘smart’ interactions. In recent years, physiological computing has grown as a research field, and it is increasingly considered in diverse applications, ranging from specialised work contexts to consumer electronics....
Preprint
Full-text available
The psychophysiological method can be used to detect some simple cognitive states such as arousal, attentiveness, or mental workload. This approach can be especially interesting when cognition has some productive purpose, as in knowledge work, and tends to be related to human-computer interaction (HCI). However more interesting for applied purposes...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Electrodermal activity is an indicator of sympathetic activation and a useful tool for investigating psychological and physiological arousal. Novel wearable skin conductivity sensors offer portable low-cost solutions for long-term monitoring. In this article we compare the similarity of signals between a prototype of the wearable Moodmetric EDA Rin...
Poster
Full-text available
Measurements of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity using cardiac and electrodermal activity (EDA) are widely used as indicators of cognitive and affective regulatory activity. Cardiac activity is mediated prominently by the para-sympathetic and sympathetic branches, whereas EDA is regulated only by sympathetic nervous activity. Cortical regula...
Poster
Full-text available
We report on a study which explores the phenomenon of fronto-parietal hemispheric asymmetry in electrography of cortical activity. As reported in the literature, such asymmetry may reflect: valence of emotion, direction of motivation, focality of attention paid toward hierarchically organised stimuli, or semantic value of the stimulus. Thus we atte...
Article
Full-text available
Motivated by the link between play and learning, proposed in literature to have a neurobiological basis, we study the electroencephalogram and associated psychophysiology of “learning game” players. Forty-five players were tested for topic comprehension by a questionnaire administered before and after solo playing of the game Peacemaker (Impact Gam...
Presentation
Full-text available
We investigate the role in visual attention of inter-hemispheric signalling and the saliency network, using two novel Event-Related Potential (ERP) paradigms, with data recorded from the 128-point electroencephalogram (EEG) of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) patients and healthy control group comparison. The first protocol use...
Chapter
Full-text available
Software engineering for pedagogy and game design for entertainment produce very different requirements and generate unique kinds of practical difficulties. The design and development of serious games relies heavily on the experience of practitioners to overcome the pitfalls inherent in joining these two distinct processes into one, but experience...
Article
Full-text available
We report research on player modeling using psychophysiology and machine learning, conducted through interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers of computer science, psychology, and game design at Aalto University, Helsinki. First, we propose the Play Patterns And eXperience (PPAX) framework to connect three levels of game experience that p...
Article
Full-text available
We report an evaluation study for a novel learning platform, motivated by the growing need for serious game assessment methods. The method was a laboratory experiment combining evaluation methods from the fields of learning assessment and psychophysiology. 15 participants used the TARGET game platform for 25 minutes, while biosignals ECG, EDA and f...