Laura Walker, PhD

Photograph of Laura Walker Contact 316-440-1506 Expertise And Interests
  • Eye Movements
  • Low Vision
  • Computational Modeling

Executive Director

Dr. Laura Walker is the founding Executive Director of the Envision Research Institute (ERI). She completed her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Biomedical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Doctorate of Philosophy in Vision Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Walker's background is in psychophysics and computational modeling of vision with an emphasis on models of saccade and fixation behavior in healthy vision and in those with central field loss, primarily age-related macular degeneration. In addition to decreased visual acuity, central field loss necessitates a reassignment of fixation locus and thus the reference for oculomotor planning. With her first National Science Foundation Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience award and National Insitutes of Health Research Project grant (R01), she developed an information theoretic model to quantify fixation and saccade behavior. In addition to developing our understanding of eye movements, this model provides a tool for assessing the efficiency of eye movements in patient populations. With her most recent NIH R01, she examined the impact of oculomotor re-referencing on eye-hand coordination in central vision loss. This project entailed extensive data collection of visual field, eye and hand movements for many subjects (AMD, JMD and Controls) over several age decades.

In her role as Executive Director for the ERI, her research and programmatic activities have greatly expanded to address issues in low vision and blindness rehabilitation, employment and accessibility. Over the past three years, she has put her energies into mentoring young sceintists and collaborating with faculty at Wichita State University (WSU) in electrical engineering and computer science, human factors and biomedical engineering. We are working diligently to create research opportunities for young researchers that will have long term impact on research aimed at removing functional barriers for those who are blind or visually impaired. This includes basic research into visual functioning, but also rehabilitation and engineering research that establishes evidence-based interventions and technology. Results of these efforts are beginning to emerge, including an intervention to recover depth perception in AMD (with ERI's first postdoctoral fellow) and a wayfinding system for blind users in unfamiliar indoor spaces (a collaboration with WSU).

At ERI, we intend to establish evidence-based low vision rehabilitation to both improve current clinical practice and to increase awareness, access and referrals to rehabilitative care.

Dr. Walker's CV

Publications View All

Renninger LW, Malik J. When is scene recognition just texture recognition? Vision Research. 2004; 44: 2301-11.

Renninger LW, Verghese P, Coughlan JM. Where to look next? Eye movements reduce local uncertainty. Journal of Vision 2007; 7(3): 6, 1­17.

Fletcher DC, Schuchard, RA & Renninger LW (2012). Patient awareness of binocular central scotoma in AMD. Optometry & Vision Science, 89(9):1395-1398.

Sullivan, B., & Walker, L. (2015). Comparing the fixational and functional preferred retinal location in a pointing task. Vision research, 116, 68-79.

Cheraghi, S.A., Namboodiri, V., & Walker, L. (2017). GuideBeacon: Beacon-Based Indoor Wayfinding for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Disoriented, IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing (IEEE PerCom), Kona Island, Hawaii, USA, March 2017.