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Research grants and contracts December 2012 – University of Reading

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Research grants and contracts December 2012

The total amount of money awarded in research grants and contracts in November was £1,599,868. The grants awarded ranged from £4,426 to £431,604, and this money came from a number of sources including the European Commission, UK and US Government, research councils, industry and charitable trusts.

Dr Gunter Kuhnle from Food and Nutritional Sciences was awarded £431,604 from the European Commission for a project titled 'Phytome - Phytochemicals to reduce nitrite in meat products'. This European project aims to develop innovative meat products in which the food additive nitrite has been replaced by natural compounds originating from fruits and vegetables, known as phytochemicals.

Consumer studies have demonstrated that meat consumption in most EU countries is stagnating. This can partially be explained by the fact that consumers are sensitive to reports in various media that consumption of meat may contribute to colon cancer risk. This health risk may be attributed to the high concentrations of nitrite that are added to meat products in order to guarantee an attractive red colour and a prolonged shelf life.

In order to obtain the same effects in the new meat products, carefully selected combinations of natural antioxidants and other biologically active compounds occurring in vegetables, fruits and natural extracts such as coffee and tea, will be added during meat processing. Some of these compounds possess an antimicrobial activity allowing them to replace nitrite, whereas others possess a natural red colour that may contribute to the desired appearance of the products. Also, some of these compounds are known to protect colonic cells against damaging effects of cancer causing agents that may be formed in the large intestine after meat consumption.

The project will develop new technologies to introduce natural extracts during processing to different types of meat products. The Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading will contribute analytical expertise to this project, in particular the analysis of phytochemicals in meat and biological samples, but also the detection risk markers for colorectal cancer.

Dr Andrew Glennerster from Psychology was awarded £419,878 from the EPSRC for 'Testing view-based and 3D models of human navigation and spatial perception'.

The way that animals use visual information to move around and interact with objects involves a highly complex interaction between visual processing, neural representation and motor control. Understanding the mechanisms involved is of interest not only to neuroscientists but also to engineers who must solve similar problems when designing control systems for autonomous mobile robots and other visually guided devices.

The aim of this project is to find evidence that will distinguish between two opposing views about how the brain represents 3D space, enabling us to determine which of the two models most accurately reflects human behaviour in a 3D environment.

The prevailing idea is that the brain reconstructs a model of the scene, rather like an architect building a 3D model. A more recent hypothesis is that the brain stores and organises a large number of sensory contexts for action and, in this case, the representation of a scene is based on stored views and rules for moving between views. The experiments will be carried out in a new immersive virtual reality laboratory in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences

Airflow sensing mechanosensors found on the cerci of crickets

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