School of Psychology
   
   
  

Visual Neuroscience

visual-neuroscience

How the brain maps our world

The Visual Neuroscience Group investigates the fundamental psychophysical, neural and computational principles of sensory processing. 
 

This group investigate all aspects of visual processing, including motion processing, spatial vision, temporal vision, colour perception, binocular vision, ocular motor control, neural plasticity and normal and abnormal visual development. There is also a clinical focus on understanding and treating disorders of vision, such as amblyopia and macular degeneration.

Recent projects and publications 

Recently funded projects include mapping the topography of somatosensory cortex (BBSRC) and normal and abnormal mechanisms of plasticity in visual cortex (ERC).

Researchers

Two members hold prestigious research fellowships funded by the Wellcome Trust.

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Harriet Allen
Associate Professor

I measure the neural processes of combining sensory information. My recent research has found differences in the relationship between perception and attention in obesity, autism, and ageing and has applied this to human factors, vehicle design, and the everyday environment.

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I received my BSc and Phd from the University of Nottingham. My PhD investigated low level motion perception. During my BSc I spent a year working for the DRA on Human Factors of simulators and jet fighters.

After my PhD worked in Montreal, at McGill University, again looking at low level vision but this time investigating texture perception and amblyopia (lazy eye). I became interested in how higher level processes such as attention influence low level vision.

I returned to the Uk to spend several years at the University of Birmingham, including 5 as an RCUK fellow. I used behavioural measures and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to investigate the interaction of vision and attention through the adult life span.

I started at Nottingham in September 2011 and am investigating the interaction of attention with perception in multiple contexts including driving, low level and mid level vision and ignoring.

I'm particularly interested in how our brains represent things that we ignore. Do we process and then block these signals, or turn them down at source? Does it matter if we simply attend to something else or if we specifically choose to ignore an object. Do these processes get harder with age?

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Matias Ison
Associate Professor

My interdisciplinary research programme addresses a variety of topics in the field of cognitive neuroscience. I am particularly interested in: i) studying episodic memory formation, taking advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to record the simultaneous activity of single neurons in awake humans, ii) understanding how information is represented in the brain, iii) developing data analysis techniques to bridge the gap between eye movements and EEG recordings.

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I graduated in Physics from the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 2001, and obtained a PhD in the field of statistical mechanics in 2006. Subsequently I was invited to work as a visiting scientist for the Laboratoire de Physique Corpusculaire in Caen (France). The same year, I joined the University of Leicester as a Postdoctoral Research Associate and in 2007 I was appointed New Blood Lecturer in Bioengineering. In 2009, I was appointed Honorary Clinical Research Fellow at King's College Hospital, London and Visiting Professor at the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Physics at the University of Buenos Aires in 2012 and 2013. I joined the School of Psychology, University of Nottingham in September 2016.

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Alan Johnston
Professor of Psychology

Most of my work is related to the perception of motion, from building computational models of motion processing in the human visual system to investigating the perception of dynamic change in the face. 

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Current projects include the investigation of the temporal properties of mutual gaze and the relationship between facial speech and auditory speech.

Alan Johnston has been a Professor of Psychology at the University of Nottingham since 2015, working in the field of experimental psychology and computer vision, with research expertise in motion computation and the perception, analysis and synthesis of moving faces. He has previously been Head of Department of Psychology and Director of CoMPLEX at UCL. In 2003 he discipline-hopped to the Robotics Research Group and the Centre for Mathematical Biology at the University of Oxford and has a long standing interest in interdisciplinary research and training in vision. He was one of the UCL PIs in 2020 Science, an EPSRC funded centre for postdoctoral training. He has held visiting positons at Harvard Universtiy and Université Rene Descartes and is an Honorary Professor at UCL. His research interests cover visual perception, time perception, crossmodal perception, gaze timing and dynamic face perception. He has written over 100 journal articles including 3 in Nature and 6 in Current Biology.

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Timothy Ledgeway
Professor of Vision Research

Broadly speaking my research addresses the psychological, neural and computational mechanisms underlying our ability to perceive the visual world. I primarily use psychophysical (behavioural) methods to investigate vision, but other techniques include eye-movement recording, functional brain imaging (fMRI), modeling and electrophysiology.

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Motion Perception

Objects move and we as observers are also contantly moving our eyes, heads and bodies when interacting with our environments. This provides a rich source of visual information that can be exploited to perform many important functions (e.g. predict the future locations of animated objects in the world, break camouflage, reveal three-dimensional scene structure and aid navigation). My research interests include: Models of first-order and second-order motion detection; the relationship between psychophysical performance and the properties of visual cortical areas; feature-based theories of motion perception; speed perception; aftereffects of adaptation to motion; the integration of local velocity signals into global motion percepts.

Spatial Vision

My research in this area is directed at understanding the processes by which the outputs of sensors early in the visual pathways are combined in order to perform biologically-relevant tasks such as segmenting the image into adjacent regions, boundaries and objects. Specific interests include: the rules governing the manner in which local visual cues (e.g. spatial orientation and motion) are linked across space to extract elongated contours; why local textural differences, unlike equivalent luminance cues, are ineffective at disambiguating simple spatial contours; the anomalous processing deficits exhibited by amblyopic observers on tasks involving spatial integration.

Stereopsis and binocular vision

My research in this field focuses on how the visual system extracts information about the three-dimensional spatial structure of the environment by virtue of viewing the world simultaneously from two slightly different vantage points (i.e. with two horizontally-separated eyes). Interests include: the role of vertical disparity and vergence cues in scaling judgments of relative depth, surface shape, and size; vergence eye movements; retinal correspondence and the relationship between the theoretical (geometric) and empirical horopters; stereoscopic acuity and the depth information provided by absolute horizontal disparities; shape from shading; curvature contrast effects.

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Paul McGraw
Professor of Visual Neuroscience

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Jon Peirce
Associate Professor

I also have a strong personal interest in how we optimally study the brain and the visual system in particular. This led me to create the free psychophysics software library, PsychoPy.

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A great deal is known about the initial steps of visual processing. We know that humans have neural mechanisms selectively tuned to simple patterns of particular spatial frequencies and orientations. Much later in the visual pathway, in inferotemporal (IT) cortex, cells respond to extremely complex visual patterns such as images of faces. Very little is known about intermediate levels of visual processing, where early visual signals are presumably combined to represent increasingly complex visual features. Characterising those intermediate mechanisms is the primary interest of my lab.
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Neil Roach
Principal Research Fellow

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Denis Schluppeck
Associate Professor

Co-organiser of (and teacher on) the MSc in Brain Imaging, plus involvement in research for neuroscience, vision, functional magnetic resonance imaging and MRI data analysis.

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The aim of my research is to understand how we use our senses of vision and touch to gather information about the world and how we use that information to make decisions that are critical for our personal survival and well-being. In the visual domain, I study how humans perceive the colour, form, and motion of visual objects and make decisions based on those perceptions. In the somatosensory system, I am mostly interested how the sensory sheet of the body surface is topographically mapped onto cortical (and subcortical) areas and how other basic stimulus properties are encoded in the brain.

I use a combination of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), psychophysics, and computational modeling. Most recently, I have conducted MRI experiments at very high field (7 T) in collaboration with colleagues at the Sir Peter Mansfield MR Centre at the University to explore the use of functional and anatomical imaging at very high spatial resolution.

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Ben Webb
Associate Professor

I investigate how the brain produces visual perception. The latest knowledge on brain function is used to design clinical interventions that can recover sight loss during abnormal development, ageing, and after acquired brain damage.

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Ben Webb is an Associate Professor of Visual Neuroscience in the School of Psychology at The University of Nottingham. Between 2008-2013, he was a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow. Between 2006-2008, he was a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow. He spent two years as a visiting post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Neural Science, New York University. His PhD, funded by a Wellcome Trust Prize PhD Studentship, was awarded in 2003 from The University of Nottingham. He was awarded an MSc in Neuroscience from University of Oxford and BSc in Psychology from University of London, Goldsmiths College.

Dr Webb teaches undergraduate and postgraduate modules on the visual brain, brain computation and professional skills for PhD students. He welcomes enquiries from undergraduate project students and postgraduate students who are interested in any area of visual neuroscience or rehabilitation of sight loss, including amblyopia ('lazy eye') and age-related sight loss.

Dr Webb's lab investigates how the eye and brain enable visual perception. They are particularly interested in understanding the computations performed by the visual brain and how different visual experiences shape visual perception. They use the knowledge gleaned from basic visual neuroscience experiments to inform the design of new clinical interventions for recovering sight loss acquired during childhood, in older adults and after a stroke.

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