Department of Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis
Using functional neuroimaging to reveal the computations performed by the human visual system
Wednesday 24th of June 2015 at 12:00pm
Visual perception is the result of a complex set of computational transformations performed by neurons in the visual system. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is ideally suited for identifying these transformations, given its excellent spatial resolution and ability to monitor activity across the numerous areas of visual cortex. In this talk, I will review past research in which we used fMRI to develop increasingly accurate models of the stimulus transformations occurring in early and intermediate visual areas. I will then describe recent research in which we successfully extend this approach to high-level visual areas involved in perception of visual categories (e.g. faces) and demonstrate how top-down attention modulates bottom-up stimulus representations. Finally, I will discuss ongoing research targeting regions of ventral temporal cortex that are essential for skilled reading. Our model-based approach, combined with high-field laminar measurements, is expected to provide an integrated picture of how bottom-up stimulus transformations and top-down cognitive factors interact to support rapid and accurate word recognition. Development of quantitative models and associated experimental paradigms may help us understand and diagnose impairments in neural processing that underlie visual disorders such as dyslexia and prosopagnosia.
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