This research team uses functional imaging and psychophysical methods to investigate the neural mechanisms that the brain employs to solve the puzzle of unified perception and support higher cognitive processes, namely visual recognition and categorization.
The main goals are -
- to investigate how local image features are integrated into global coherent shapes
- to examine higher cognitive processes that contribute to the recognition and categorization of natural objects and scenes
- to understand the learning-dependent and developmental plasticity of the neural mechanisms that underlie these processes
Our early work in this area (carried out at the Max Plank Institute in Tübingen) has shown that the human Lateral Occipital Complex (LOC), an area in the lateral occipital cortex that extends anterior into the temporal cortex is involved in the analysis of the perceived object shape. Further studies have shown that shape information is processed not only in ventral but also in dorsal areas known to be involved primarily in motion processing, suggesting interactions between form and motion analysis. More recent fMRI studies have shown that unified shape perception involves both early and higher visual areas that integrate local elements to global shapes at different spatial scales. We have also investigated the processing of coherent shapes in complex visual scenes, the temporal characteristics of unified shape perception, its experience-based neural plasticity and developmental time-course.
Our ongoing work investigates -
- the combination of different cues for the perception of 3D dynamic objects and natural scenes
- the effects of perceptual learning and categorization on object perception
- the development of coherent visual perception and categorization.
In summary, our research aims in advancing our understanding of the neural mechanisms that the human brain employs to achieve visual awareness of a unified world and successful interactions in our complex environments.