12th Annual Dinner and Demo Night

Monday, May 19, 2014, 6:00 – 10:00 pm

Beach BBQ: 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Beachside Sun Decks,
Demos: 7:00 – 10:00 pm, Talk Room 1-2, Royal Tern, Snowy Egret, Compass, & Spotted Curlew

Please join us Monday evening for the 12th Annual VSS Demo Night, a spectacular night of imaginative demos solicited from VSS members. The demos highlight the important role of visual displays in vision research and education. This year’s Demo Night will be organized and curated by Gideon Caplovitz, University of Nevada Reno; Arthur Shapiro, American University; Dejan Todorovic, University of Belgrade and Karen Schloss, Brown University.

A Beach BBQ is served on the Beachside Sun Decks. Demos are located in Talk Room 1-2, Royal Tern, Snowy Egret, Compass, & Spotted Curlew.

Demo Night is free for all registered VSS attendees. Meal tickets are not required, but you must wear your VSS badge for entry to the Beach BBQ. Guests and family members of all ages are welcome to attend the demos but must purchase a ticket for dinner. You can register your guests at any time during the meeting at the VSS Registration Desk, located on the Grand Palm Colonnade. A desk will also be set up on the Seabreeze Terrace at 6:30 pm.

Guest prices: Adults: $25, Youth (6-12 years old): $10, Children under 6: free

Biological Motion

Peter Thompson, Rob Stone, University of York
A real-time demonstration of point-light biological motion. Walk, jump, dance in front of the sensor and see your point-light display. Using an Xbox Kinect sensor (approx $50) and our free software you can produce this effect for yourselves.

Audiovisual Hallucinations

Parag Mital, Dartmouth College
Audiovisual scene synthesis attempts to simultaneously learn and match existing representations of proto-objects in the ongoing auditory and visual scene. The synthesized scene is presented through virtual reality goggles and headphones.

Phenomenology of Flicker-Defined Motion

Jeff Mulligan, NASA Ames Research Center; Scott Stevenso, University of Houston College of Optometry
Flicker-defined motion produces a number of surprises: a target that disappears when pursued; a target that appears to move in jumps when moved continuously; a persistent ‘’trail’’ that disappears when the target is pursued. These effects and more will be presented.

Thatcherise Your Face

Peter Thompson, Rob Stone, Tim Andrews, University of York
The Thatcher illusion is one of the best-loved perceptual phenomena. here you will have the opportunity to see yourself ‘thatcherised’ in real time. And you can have a still version of your thatcherised face as a souvenir.

The Ever-Popular Beuchet Chair

Peter Thompson, Rob Stone, Tim Andrews, University of York
The Beuchet chair baffles because the two separate parts of the chair are seen as belonging together. Although at different distances, the two parts have appropriate sizes to create the retinal image of a single chair at some intermediate distance. The two figures are now perceived as being at the same distance away and therefore size constancy does not operate. Additionally the far figure must be tiny to fit on the big seat of the chair and the near figure must be huge.

The Wandering Circles

Christopher D. Blair, Lars Strother and Gideon P. Caplovitz, University of Nevada, Reno
Physically stationary flickering shapes appear to drift randomly when viewed peripherally.

Dynamic Ebbinghaus

Ryan E.B. Mruczek, Christopher D. Blair, Gideon P. Caplovitz, University of Nevada, Reno
Come see the Ebbinghaus Illusion as you’ve never seen it before! Watch the central circle grow and shrink before your eyes as we add a dynamic twist to this classic illusion.

To Deform or Not to Deform: Illusory Deformations of a Static Object Triggered by the Light Projection of Motion Signals

Takahiro Kawabe, Masataka Sawayama, Kazushi Maruya, Shin’ya Nishida, NTT Communication Sciences Laboratories, Japan
We will demonstrate that projecting image motion through a video projector can deform the apparent shape of static objects printed on the paper.


Anna Kosovicheva, Benjamin Wolfe, Wesley Chaney, Allison Yamanashi Leib, Alina Liberman, University of California, Berkeley
We present a modified phenakistoscope in which we use a strobe light to create animated images on a spinning disc. Viewers can adjust the frequency of a strobe light to change the animation, or make the image on the disc appear to spin backwards or stand still.

Polygonization Effect

Kenzo Sakurai, Tohoku Gakuin University
Prolonged viewing of a circular shape in peripheral vision produces polygonal shape perception of the circle itself. This shape distortion illusion can be induced in a short period by alternately presenting a circle and its inward gradation pattern.

The Saccadic Smear

Mark Wexler, Marianne Duyke, Thérèse Collins, CRNS & Université Paris Descartes
When a stimulus appears only during a saccade, you see it smeared. If it also appears before the saccade or stays on afterwards, the smear is masked. We demonstrate this retro 1970s-style phenomenon using a portable eye tracker and several LEDs. Wait a minute, where did that smear go?

Bistable Double Face Illusion

Sarah Cormiea, Anna Shafer-Skelton; Harvard University
Come visit our demo and take home an illusion made with your own face. We’ll take two photos and combine them to create a bistable illusion of a forward looking face that incongruously still has a profile.

Expansion/Contraction Blindness

Koshke Takahashi, Katsumi Watanabe, The University of Tokyo
We show a novel striking visual illusion. When an object filled with black and white color makes rotation and zoom on a gray background, you will never see the expansion and contraction.

Rotating Columns

Vicky Froyen, Daglar Tanrikulu, Rutgers University
Adding textural motion to classic figure-ground displays reveals complex interactions between accretion-deletion and geometric figure-ground cues. We demonstrate cases where static geometry overrides standard depth from accretion-deletion. Thus moving regions are perceived as figural and rotating in 3D, despite the textural motion being linear and thus inconsistent with 3D rotation.

Infinite Regress Etch-a-Sketch

Nika Adamian, Patrick Cavanagh, Matteo Lisi, Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris V Descartes; Peter U. Tse, Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris V Descartes, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College
A new infinite regress illusion (Tse & Hsieh, 2006) synchronizes changes in the path of a gabor with changes in its internal motion. This produces large, stable differences between perceived and physical location. Illusory shapes or orientations can be created to show dramatic dissociations between action and perception.

News from the Freiburg Vision Test

Michael Bach, University Eye Center, Freiburg Germany
“FrACT” with a history of over 20 years was validated in a number of studies and is widely employed – in 2013 it was cited in 40 papers that used FrACT. Its ongoing active development is often driven by user requests. I will demonstrate new features.

Chromatic Interocular Switch Rivalry

Jens Hofman Christiansen, University of Copenhagen; Steven Shevell, University of Chicago; Anthony D’Antona, University of Texas at Austin
Using a haploscope, a differently colored circle is presented to each eye in the same part of the visual field (binocular color rivalry). When the rivalrous colors are exchanged between the eyes at 3 Hz, the percept is not flickering colors but instead slow alternation between the two colors.

Eye Movements and Troxler Fading

Romain Bachy, Qasim Zaidi, Graduate Center for Vision Research, SUNY Optometry
Observers will be able to use a time-varying procedure to see that fixational eye-movements control the magnitude and speed of adaptation for foveal and peripheral vision. The stimuli will isolate single classes of retinal ganglion cells and demonstrate the effects of flicker and blur on adaptation of each class.

The Magical Misdirection of Attention in Time

Anthony S. Barnhart, Northern Arizona University
When we think of ‘’misdirection,’’ we typically think of a magician drawing attention away from a spatial location. However, magicians also misdirect attention in time through the creation of ‘’off-beats,’’ moments of suppressed attention. The ‘’striking vanish’’ illusion, where a coin disappears when tapped with a pen, exploits this phenomenon.

Applying Temporal Masking For Bandwidth Reduction in HD Video Streaming

Velibor Adzic, Hari Kalva, Florida Atlantic University
We demonstrate some aspects of temporal masking in natural video sequences. Specifically, application of backward temporal masking and motion masking in visually lossless video compression.

Water Flowing Upward

Wenxun Li, Leonard Martin, Columbia University; Ethel Matin, Long Island University – Post
See Water Flowing Uphill!

Lower in Contrast, Higher in Numerosity

Quan Lei, Adam Reeves, Northeastern University
There appear to be many more light gray than white disks, and many more dark gray than black disks, when equal numbers of the disks are intermingled on a medium gray background. Intermingling is critical: disks separated into two regions match in perceived numerosity.

The Shape-Shifting Cylinder

Lore Thaler, Durham University, UK
We present a novel demonstration of the effects of optical texture and binocular disparity on shape perception. You will see a real, physical cylinder. As you alternate your view from monocular to binocular the shape of the cylinder shifts, i.e. the tip of the cylinder appears to move from left to right (or vice versa).

Virtual Reality Immersion with the Full HD Oculus Rift Head Mounted Displays

Michael Schaletzki, Matthias Pusch, Charlette Li, WorldViz
Get fully immersed with a research quality, consumer component based Virtual Reality system. Powered by the WorldViz Vizard VR software, the system comes with the Oculus Rift HD, motion tracking, rapid application development tools, application starter kit, support & training. Walk through high-fidelity virtual environments in full scale and fully control visual input.

What Happens to a Shiny 3D Object in a Rotating Environment?

Steven A. Cholewiak, University of Gissen, Germany; Gizem Kucukoglu, New York University
A mirrored object reflects a distorted world. The distortions depend on the object’s surface and act as points of correspondence when it moves. We demonstrate how the perceived speed of a rotating mirrored object is affected by rotation of the environment and present an interesting case of perceived non-rigid deformation.

Alternating Apparent Motion in Random Dot Displays

Nicolas Davidenko, Jacob Smith, Yeram Cheong, University of California, Santa Cruz
A succession of random dot displays gives rise to a percept of coherent, global, apparent motion. The perceived apparent motion is typically alternating (flipping direction on each frame) and vertical, although the direction can be easily manipulated by suggestion.

An Ames-room-like Box with a Ball Inside

Ryuichi Yokota, Masahiro Ishii, Shoko Yasuoka, Sapporo University
This is a miniature overturned Ames room with a physically-slanted base. The top face has a hole to peep inside. The box is designed to have an apparently-horizontal base and contains a ball. One can experience unnatural feelings when they manipulate to roll the ball across the base.

VPixx Response-Time Survivor

Peter April, Jean-Francois Hamelin, Stephanie-Ann Seguin, VPixx Technologies
VPixx will be demonstrating our PROPixx DLP projector refreshing at 1440Hz. The demo is a fun game in which we measure your reaction time to cross-modal audiovisual stimuli. Do it fast, and win a prize! This year’s demo has a surprise twist which you will definitely want to see.

Moving Barber-Pole Illusion

George Sperling, Peng Sun, Charles Chubb, University of California, Irvine
When an entire vertically oriented barber pole itself moves laterally, and it is viewed peripherally, the perceived motion direction is vertically upward, even though the physical Fourier, end-stop, and feature motion directions, and the foveally perceived motion direction are all diagonal.

SWYE! Surfing With Your Eyes: The Beachiest Illusion Out There!

Alejandro Lleras, Simona Buetti, University of Illinois
This ‘’You-Should-Really-Try-Doing-It-On-The-Beach-Sometime-You-Know?’’ visual illusion is Ok when seen on video… a run-of-the-mill bi-stable stimulus. But when experienced at the beach, it becomes a multimodal illusion where (while stationary) you feel as if you were gliding at several feet per second over the water. Your trips to the beach will never be the same!

The New Synopter

M.W.A. Wijntjes, S.C. Pont, Perceptual Intelligence Lab, Delft University of Technology
With two mirrors it is possible to optically juxtapose the location of both eyes, resulting in disparities that are similar to infinitely distant points. Although invented about a 100 year ago, the synopter yields a percept that is still difficult to explain: that of an illusory 3D picture.

2014 Public Lecture – Thomas V. Papathomas

Thomas V. Papathomas

Rutgers University

public_lectureThomas V. Papathomas, a Professor and Dean at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, studies how humans perceive objects, faces and scenes. He has authored over 100 scientific publications, has designed award-winning 3-D illusions and has exhibited in art/science shows and science museums.

Vision Research: Artists Doing Science – Scientists Doing Art

Saturday, May 17, 2014, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm, The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

It has often been said that artists are years ahead of vision scientists in making progress toward understanding how the visual brain works. This talk will illustrate how artists have been able to use their intuitive grasp of visual perception fundamentals to open new horizons in research. At the same time, the talk will highlight how visual scientists have used their research-based knowledge of visual brain function to provide a deep understanding of the art experience and, occasionally, venture into making art.

About the VSS Public Lecture

The annual public lecture represents the mission and commitment of the Vision Sciences Society to promote progress in understanding vision, and its relation to cognition, action and the brain. Education is basic to our science, and as scientists we are obliged to communicate the results of our work, not only to our professional colleagues but to the broader public. This lecture is part of our effort to give back to the community that supports us.

2014 Student Workshops

VSS Workshop for PhD Students and Postdocs:
PNAS: How do I judge to which journal I should send my paper

Sunday, May 18, 1:00 – 2:00 pm, Snowy Egret

Moderator: Frans Verstraten
Introduction: Sandra Aamodt
Discussants: Heinrich Bülthoff, Nancy Kanwisher, & Concetta Morrone

PNAS… Post Nature And Science. We all think we do excellent research and great results deserve a great outlet. How many of us have wandered the whole route from all the top ranked journals, only to end up in an average journal? Wouldn’t it be good if we could only judge the journal to go for immediately? It saves the disappointment of not being sent out for review, rejection, and the energy needed to once more having to rewrite the manuscript. Moreover, what is wrong with an average journal for your output? We will discus some of the ways to convince the editors of high profile journals to at least send your manuscript out for review. We will hear some good and bad experiences and hope to conclude with some realistic advice…

Sandra Aamodt

Sandra is a coauthor of Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College and Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life, which was named science book of the year in 2009 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, she has read over 5000 neuroscience papers in her career. Before joining the journal, she received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Rochester and did postdoctoral research at Yale University.

Heinrich Bülthoff

Heinrich is director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen. He is head of the Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action in which a group of about 70 researchers investigate psychophysical and computational aspects of higher level visual processes in object and face recognition, sensory-motor integration, human robot interaction, spatial cognition, and perception and action in virtual environments. He is Honorary Professor at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität (Tübingen) and Korea University (Seoul). He is co-founder of the journal ACM Transactions on Applied Perception (ACM TAP) and on the editorial boards of several open access journals. He has not published in Nature Journals for more than ten years.

Nancy Kanwisher

Nancy is the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the M.I.T. She is interested in the functional organization of the brain as a window into the architecture of the human mind. Her work and that of her students have been published in some of the best journals. She has, however, her ideas about this… She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

Concetta Morrone

Concetta is Professor of Physiology at University of Pisa. Over the years her research has spanned most active areas of vision research, including spatial vision, development, plasticity, attention, color, motion, robotics, vision during eye movements and more recently multisensory perception and action. Concetta has published some 160 publications in excellent international peer-review journals, including Nature and her sister journals, Neuron, Current Biology and several Trends in Journals. She has been editor of many journals and was one of the founding editors of the Journal of Vision, and currently she is Chief Editor and founder of the journal “Multisensory Research” (the continuation of “Spatial Vision”).

Frans Verstraten

Frans is the MacCaughey Chair of Psychology at the University of Sydney. So far he has never made it into Nature or Science and if Bayes was right, he probably never will. His task is to facilitate the discussion. He has served on several editorial boards and is currently one of the editors-in-chief of Perception and i-Perception.

VSS Workshop for PhD Students and Postdocs:
How to Transition from Postdoc to Professor?

Sunday, May 18, 1:00 – 2:00 pm, Royal Tern

Moderator: Frank Tong
Discussants: Julie Golomb, Sam Ling, Joo-Hyun Song, and Jeremy Wilmer

You’re really excited by all of the research you’re doing in the lab…. Ahh, the freedom to explore, discover, and focus just on doing good science. But at the back of your mind, you find yourself thinking, “When should I strike out on my own and apply for faculty positions, so I can start my own lab?”

So, when is the right time? What should your CV look like, so your application will attract the attention of the search committee? How will you craft your research statement to convey the importance of your work? Once you are invited to interview, how will you prepare for the big day, what should you expect in your individual meetings, what kinds of questions might people ask? Most important, how will you structure and stylize your job talk to excite everyone in the department about your research program?

We will hear the advice and learning experiences of assistant professors who recently made the transition from postdoc to faculty member. Much of this seminar will focus on how to put your best face forward when applying for faculty positions, from CV to negotiating the details of the position. We will have an open discussion of what qualities departments often look for in top candidates. We will also hear about the joys and challenges of starting a new lab, teaching courses for the first time, finding the right people for the lab family, and what life is like as a new faculty member.

Julie Golomb

Julie is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at the Ohio State University. Her research focuses on how objects and their spatial locations are perceived and coded in the brain, and how these representations are influenced by eye movements, shifts of attention, and other top-down factors. Julie received her PhD from Yale University in 2009 and did a postdoc at MIT before starting her faculty position in 2012. She was recently selected as a 2014 Sloan Research Fellow in Neuroscience.

Sam Ling

Sam is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Boston University. His research focuses on neural mechanisms of visual perception (e.g., orientation perception, contrast sensitivity, binocular rivalry) and the top-down effects of attention on visual processing. He received his PhD from New York University in 2007 and pursued postdoctoral research at Vanderbilt University before beginning his current faculty position in 2014.

Joo-Hyun Song

Joo-Hyun is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic & Psychological Sciences at Brown University. She investigates the mechanisms involved in integrating higher-order cognitive processes, such as attention, decision making and visually guided actions, through a combination of methodologies including behavioral investigations, online action tracking, fMRI, EEG, and neurophysiological experiments. She received her PhD from Harvard University (2006) and pursued postdoctoral research at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute (2006-2010) before beginning her current faculty position in 2010.

Jeremy Wilmer

Jeremy is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wellesley College. He investigates clinical and non-clinical human variation in cognitive and perceptual abilities to gain insights into their genetic and environmental influences, functional organization, and practical correlates. His experiences include several years of running a lab at an undergraduate-only, single-sex liberal arts college. He received his PhD in 2006, pursued postdoctoral research at University of Pennsylvania and SUNY College of Optometry, before beginning his current faculty position in 2009.

Frank Tong

Frank Tong is a Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. He is interested in understanding the fundamental mechanisms underlying visual perception, attention, object processing, and visual working memory. He has received multiple awards for his research advances, in particular for his work on fMRI decoding of visual and mental states. He particularly enjoys working with students and postdocs as they carve their path towards scientific discovery and independence, and currently serves as a VSS board member.

2014 Funding Workshop

VSS Workshop on Grantsmanship and Funding Agencies

Saturday, May 17, 2014, 1:00 – 2:00 pm, Snowy Egret

Discussants: Todd Horowitz and Michael Steinmetz

You have a great research idea, but you need money to make it happen. You need to write a grant. But where can you apply to get money for vision research? What do you need to know before you write a grant? How does the granting process work? Writing grants to support your research is as critical to a scientific career as data analysis and scientific writing. In this session, Todd Horowitz (National Cancer Institute) and Mike Steinmetz (National Eye Institute) will give you insight into the inner workings of the extramural program at the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, we will present information on a range of government agencies outside the NIH who are interested in funding vision science research.

Todd Horowitz

Todd is Program Director in the Basic Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He came to this position after spending 12 years as Principal Investigator at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, where he studied visual search and multiple object tracking. At NCI, he is responsible for promoting basic research in attention, perception, and cognition, as well as serving on the trans-NIH Sleep Research coordinating committee.

Michael Steinmetz

Michael is the Director of the Strabismus, Amblyopia, and Visual Processing Program at the National Eye Institute (NEI). Dr. Steinmetz was a faculty member in the Department of Neuroscience and the Zanvyl Krieger Mind-Brain Institute at Johns Hopkins University for twenty years. His research program studied the neurophysiological mechanisms of selective attention and spatial perception by combining behavioral studies with single-unit electrophysiology in awake monkeys and fMRI experiments in humans. Dr. Steinmetz has extensive experience at NIH, both as a Scientific Review Administrator and as a program officer. He also represents the NEI on many inter-agency and trans-NIH committees, including the NIH Blueprint; the NIH/NSF Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS) program; the BRAIN project; and  the DOD vision research group. Dr. Steinmetz also serves as the NEI spokesperson for numerous topics in visual neuroscience.


2014 Davida Teller Award – Mary C. Potter

VSS established the Davida Teller Award in 2013. Davida was an exceptional scientist, mentor and colleague, who for many years led the field of visual development. The award is therefore given to an outstanding woman vision scientist with a strong history of mentoring.

Vision Sciences Society is honored to present Dr. Mary Potter with the 2014 Davida Teller Award.

Mary C. Potter

Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Dr. Mary Potter, better known as Molly Potter, a professor of Psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the winner of the Davida Teller Award 2014. Potter is known for her fierce intellect, her deeply original experiments, and her fundamental discoveries about human cognition.

A few highlights: Already in 1975, Potter discovered that subjects can report conceptual information about a pictured object faster than they can name it, showing that it is not necessary to access the verbal label to understand the meaning of an object. Later she discovered that complex visual scenes can be perceived and understood much faster than anyone had previously recognized. She showed that subjects can identify the gist of a scene from an astonishingly brief presentation. Here Potter made innovative use of rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP).

Potter has a long list of scientists that consider her as their mentor, many of them leading scientists themselves now. For example, with Judith Kroll, Molly showed that people can easily read at 12 words per second, but their later memory will be poor. In Molly’s lab, Helene Intraub discovered repetition blindness and Nancy Kanwisher and Daphne Bavelier developed methods to study it. Marvin Chun, and later Mark Niewenstein and Brad Wyble, investigated and modeled the attentional blink.

Detecting picture meaning in extreme conditions

Monday, May 19, 12:30 pm, Talk Room 2

What is the shortest presentation duration at which a named scene or object can be recognized above chance, when the scene is presented among other pictures in a short RSVP sequence? In a recent study (Potter, Wyble, Hagmann, & McCourt, 2014) presentation durations were blocked and dropped slowly from 80 ms to 53, 27, and 13 ms. Although d’ declined as duration shortened, it remained above chance even at 13 ms, whether the name was given just before or just after the sequence, and whether there were 6 or 12 pictures per sequence. A forced choice between two pictures at the end of each sequence was reliably above chance only if the participant had correctly said yes. New replications varied the method but gave similar results: 1) using grayscale sequences; 2) randomizing all the nontarget pictures across all trials, for each subject; 3) randomizing durations instead of blocking them; and 4) using a different set of pictures with superordinate or basic object names for targets. Whether these results indicate feedforward processing (as we suggest) or are accounted for in some other way, they represent a challenge to models of visual attention and perception.

Mid-level representations in visual processing

Organizer: Jonathan Peirce; University of Nottingham
Presenters: Jonathan Peirce, Anitha Pasupathy, Zoe Kourtzi, Gunter Loffler, Tim Andrews, Hugh Wilson

< Back to 2014 Symposia

Symposium Description

A great deal is known about the early stages of visual processing, whereby light of different wavelengths is detected and filtered in such a way as to represent something approximating “edges”. A large number of studies are also examining the “high-level” processing and representation of visual objects; the representation of faces and scenes, and the visual areas responsible for their processing. Remarkably few studies examine either the intervening “mid-level” representations or the visual areas that are involved in this level of processing. This symposium will examine what form these intermediate representations might take, and what methods we have available to study such mechanisms. The speakers have used a variety of methods to try and understand mid-level processing and the associated visual areas. Along the way, a number of questions will be considered. Do we even have intermediate representations; surely higher-order object representations could be built directly on the outputs of V1 cells since all of the information is available there? How does such a representation not fall foul of the problem of parameter explosion? What aspects of the visual scene are encoded at this level? How could we understand such representations further? Why have we not made further progress in this direction before; is the problem simply too hard to study? The symposium is designed for attendees of all levels and will involve a series of 20 minute talks (each including 5 minutes for questions) from each of the speakers. We hope to encourage people that this is an important and tangible problem that vision scientists should be working hard to solve.


Compound feature detectors in mid-level vision

Speaker: Jonathan Peirce; University of Nottingham

A huge number of studies have considered low-level visual processes (such as the detection of edges, colors and motion) and high-level visual processes (such as the processing of faces and scenes). Relatively few studies examine the nature of intermediate visual representations, or “mid-level” vision. One approach to studying mid-level visual representations might be to try and understand the mechanisms that combine the outputs of V1 neurons to create an intermediate feature detector. We have used adaptation techniques to try and probe the existence of detectors for combinations of sinusoids that might form plaid form detectors or curvature detectors. We have shown for both of these features that adaptation effects to the compound has been greater than predicted by adaptation to the parts alone, and that this is greatest when the components form a plaid that we perceive as coherent or a curve that is continuous. To create such representations requires simple logical AND-gates, which might be formed simply by summing the nonlinear outputs of V1 neurons. Many questions remain however, about where in the visual cortex these representations are stored, and how the different levels of representation interact.

Boundary curvature as a basis of shape encoding in macaque area V4

Speaker: Anitha Pasupathy; University of Washington

The broad goal of research in my laboratory is to understand how visual form is encoded in the intermediate stages of the ventral visual pathway, how these representations arise and how they contribute to object recognition behavior. Our current focus is primate V4, an area known to be critical for form processing. Given the enormity of the shape-encoding problem, our strategy has been to test specific hypotheses with custom-designed, parametric, artificial stimuli. With guidance from shape theory, computer-vision and psychophysical literature we identify stimulus features (for example T-junctions) that might be critical in natural vision and work these into our stimulus design so as to progress in a controlled fashion toward more naturalistic stimuli. I will present examples from our past and current experiments that successfully employ this strategy and have led to the discovery of boundary curvature as a basis for shape encoding in area V4. I will conclude with some brief thoughts on how we might move from the highly-controlled stimuli we currently use to the more rich and complex stimuli of natural vision.

Adaptive shape coding in the human visual brain

Speaker: Zoe Kourtzi; University of Birmingham

In the search for neural codes, we typically measure responses to input stimuli alone without considering their context in space (i.e. scene configuration) or time (i.e. temporal history). However, accumulating evidence suggests an adaptive neural code that is dynamically shaped by experience. Here, we present work showing that experience plays a critical role in molding mid-level visual representations and shape perception. Combining behavioral and brain imaging measurements we demonstrate that learning optimizes the binding of local elements into shapes, and the selection of behaviorally relevant features for shape categorization. First, we provide evidence that the brain flexibly exploits image regularities and learns to use discontinuities typically associated with surface boundaries for contour linking and target identification. Specifically, learning of regularities typical in natural contours (i.e., collinearity) can occur simply through frequent exposure, generalize across untrained stimulus features, and shape processing in occipitotemporal regions. In contrast, learning to integrate discontinuities (i.e., elements orthogonal to contour paths) requires task-specific training, is stimulus dependent, and enhances processing in intraparietal regions. Second, by reverse correlating behavioral and fMRI responses with noisy stimulus trials, we identify the critical image parts that determine the observers’ choice in a shape categorization task. We demonstrate that learning optimizes shape templates by tuning the representation of informative image parts in higher ventral cortex. In sum, we propose that similar learning mechanisms may mediate long-term optimization through development, tune the visual system to fundamental principles of feature binding, and shape visual category representations.

Probing intermediate stages of shape processing

Speaker: Gunter Loffler; Glasgow Caledonian University

The visual system provides a representation of what and where objects are. This entails parsing the visual scene into distinct objects. Initially, the visual system encodes information locally. While interactions between adjacent cells can explain how local fragments of an object’s contour are extracted from a scene, more global mechanisms have to be able to integrate information beyond that of neighbouring cells to allow for the representation of extended objects. This talk will examine the nature of intermediate-level computations in the transformation from discrete local sampling to the representation of complex objects. Several paradigms were invoked to study how information concerning the position and orientation of local signals is combined: a shape discrimination task requiring observers to discriminate between contours; a shape coherence task measuring the number of elements required to detect a contour; a shape illusion in which positional and orientational information is combined inappropriately. Results support the notion of mechanisms that integrate information beyond that of neighbouring cells and are optimally tuned to a range of different contour shapes. Global integration is not restricted to central vision: peripheral data show that certain aspects of this process only emerge at intermediate stages. Moreover, intermediate processing appears vulnerable to damage. Diverse clinical populations (migraineurs, pre-term children and children with Cortical Visual Impairment) show specific deficits for these tasks that cannot be accounted for by low-level processes. Taken together, evidence is converging towards the identification of an intermediate level of processing, at which sensitivity to global shape attributes emerges.

Low-level image properties of visual objects explain category-selective patterns of neural response across the ventral visual pathway

Speaker: Tim Andrews; University of York

Neuroimaging research over the past 20 years has begun to reveal a picture of how the human visual system is organized. A key organizing principle that has arisen from these studies is the distinction between low-level and high-level visual regions. Low-level regions are organized into visual field maps that are tightly linked to the image properties of the stimulus. In contrast, high-level visual areas are thought to be arranged in modules that are selective for particular object categories. It is unknown, however, whether this selectivity is truly based on object category, or whether it reflects tuning for low-level features that are common to images from a particular category. To address this issue, we compared the pattern of neural response elicited by each object category with the corresponding low-level properties of images from each object category. We found a strong positive correlation between the neural patterns and the underlying low-level image properties. Importantly, the correlation was still evident when the within-category correlations were removed from the analysis. Next, we asked whether low-level image properties could also explain variation in the pattern of response to exemplars from individual object categories (faces or scenes). Again, a positive correlation was evident between the similarity in the pattern of neural response and the low-level image properties of exemplars from individual object categories. These results suggest that the pattern of response in high-level visual areas may be better explained by the image statistics of visual stimuli than by their associated categorical or semantic properties.

From Orientations to Objects: Configural Processing in the Ventral Stream

Speaker: Hugh Wilson; York University

I shall review psychophysical and fMRI evidence for a hierarchy of intermediate processing stages in the ventral or form vision system. A review of receptive field sizes from V1 up to TE indicates an increase in diameter by a factor of about 3.0 from area to area. This is consistent with configural combination of adjacent orientations to form curves or angles, followed by combination of curves and angles to form descriptors of object shapes. Psychophysical and fMRI evidence support this hypothesis, and neural models provide a plausible explanation of this hierarchical configural processing.

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Beyond the FFA: The role of the ventral anterior temporal lobes in face processing

Organizers: Jessica Collins & Ingrid Olson; Temple University
Presenters: Winrich Friewald, Stefano Anzellotti, Jessica Collins, Galia Avidan, Ed O’Neil

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Symposium Description

Extensive research supports the existence of a specialized face-processing network that is distinct from the visual processing areas used for general object recognition. The majority of this work has been aimed at characterizing the response properties of the fusiform face area (FFA) and the occipital face area (OFA), which are thought to constitute the core network of brain regions responsible for facial identification. Recent findings of face-selective cortical regions in more anterior regions of the macaque brain– in the ventral anterior temporal lobe (vATL) and in the orbitofrontal cortex casts doubt on this simple characterization of the face network. This macaque research is supported by fMRI research in humans showing functionally homologous face-processing areas in the vATLs of humans. In addition, there is intracranial EEG and neuropsychology research all pointing towards the critical role of the vATL in some aspect of face processing. The function of the vATL face patches is relatively unexplored and the goal of this symposium is to bring together researchers from a variety of disciplines to address the following question: What is the functional role of the vATLs in face perception and memory and how does it interact with the greater face network? Speakers will present recent findings organized around the following topics: 1) The response properties of the vATL face areas in humans; 2) the response properties of the vATL face area in non-human primates; 3) The connectivity of vATL face areas with the rest of the face-processing network; 4) The role of the vATLs in the face-specific visual processing deficits in prosopagnosia; 5) The sensitivity of the vATLs to conceptual information; and 6) the representational demands that modulate the involvement of the perirhinal cortex in facial recognition. The implications of these findings to theories of face processing and object processing more generally will be discussed.


Face-processing hierarchies in primates

Speaker: Winrich Friewald; The Rockefeller University

The neural mechanisms of face recognition have been extensively studied in both humans and macaque monkeys. Results obtained with similar technologies, chiefly functional brain imaging now allows for detailed cross-species comparisons of face-processing circuitry. A crucial node in this circuit, located at the interface of face perception and individual recognition, is located in the ventral anterior temporal lobe. In macaque monkeys, face selective cells have been found in this region through electrophysiological recordings, a face-selective patch identified with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and the unique functional properties of cells within these fMRI-identified regions characterized, suggesting a role in invariant face identification. Furthermore activity in this patch been causally linked, through combinations of electrical microstimulation and psychophysics, to different kinds of face recognition behavior. Not far away from this face selective region, experience-dependent specializations for complex object shapes and their associations have been located, and the mechanisms of these processes studied extensively. In my talk I will present this work on face processing in the ventral anterior temporal lobe of the macaque brain, its relationship to face processing in other face regions and to processes in neighboring regions, its implications for object recognition in general, and the impact of this work for understanding the mechanisms of human face recognition.

Invariant representations of face identity in the ATL

Speaker: Stefano Anzellotti; Harvard University
Authors: Alfonso Caramazza, Harvard University

A large body of evidence has documented the involvement of occipitotemporal regions in face recognition. Neuropsychological studies found that damage to the anterior temporal lobes (ATL) can lead to face recognition deficits, and recent neuroimaging research has shown that the ATL contain regions that respond more strongly to faces than to other categories of objects. What are the different contributions of anterior temporal and occipitotemporal regions to face recognition? In a series of fMRI studies, we investigated representations of individual faces in the human ATL using computer generated face stimuli for which participants did not have individual-specific associated knowledge. Recognition of face identity from different viewpoints and from images of part of the face was tested, using an approach in which pattern classifiers are trained and tested on the responses to different stimuli depicting the same identities. The anterior temporal lobes were found to encode identity information about faces generalizing across changes in the stimuli. Invariant information about face identity was found to be lateralized to the right hemisphere. Some tolerance across image transformations was also detected in occipitotemporal regions, but it was limited to changes in viewpoint, suggesting a process of increasing generalization from posterior to anterior temporal areas. Consistent with this interpretation, information about identity-irrelevant details of the images was found to decline moving along the posterior-anterior axis, and was not detected in the ATL.

The role of the human vATL face patches in familiar face processing

Speaker: Jessica Collins; Temple University
Authors: Ingrid Olson, Temple University

Studies of nonhuman primates have reported the existence of face sensitive patches in the ventral anterior temporal lobes. Using optimized imaging parameters recent fMRI studies have identified a functionally homologous brain region in the ventral anterior temporal lobes (vATLs) of humans. The human vATL shows sensitivity to both perceptual and conceptual features of faces, suggesting that it is involved in some aspects of both face perception and face memory. Supporting a role of the vATLs in face perception, activity patterns in the human vATL face patches discriminate between unfamiliar facial identities, and unilateral damage to the vATLs impairs the ability to make fine-grained discriminations between simultaneously displayed faces when morphed stimuli are used. Supporting a role of the vATLs in face memory, activity in the vATLs is up-regulated for famous faces and for novel faces paired with semantic content. The left ATL appears to be relatively more sensitive to the verbal or semantic aspects of faces, while the right ATL appears to be relatively more sensitive to visual aspects of face, consistent with lateralized processing of language. We will discuss the implications of these findings and propose a revised model of face processing in which the vATLs serve a centralized role in linking face identity to face memory as part of the core visual face-processing network.

Structural and functional impairment of the face processing network in congenital prosopagnosia

Speaker: Galia Avidan; Ben Gurion University
Authors: Michal Tanzer, Ben Gurion University; Marlene Behrmann, Carnegie Mellon University

There is growing consensus that accurate and efficient face recognition is mediated by a neural circuit comprised of a posterior “core” and an anterior “extended” set of regions. In a series of functional and structural imaging studies, we characterize the distributed face network in individuals with congenital prosopagnosia (CP) – a lifelong impairment in face processing – relative to that of matched controls. Interestingly, our results uncover largely normal activation patterns in the posterior core face patches in CP. More recently, we also documented normal activity of the amygdala (emotion processing) as well as normal, or even enhanced functional connectivity between the amygdala and the core regions. Critically, in the same individuals, activation of the anterior temporal cortex, which is thought to mediate identity processing, was reduced and connectivity between this region and the posterior core regions was disrupted. The dissociation between the neural profiles of the anterior temporal lobe and amygdala was evident both during a task-related face scan and during a resting state scan, in the absence of visual stimulation. Taken together, these findings elucidate selective disruptions in neural circuitry in CP, and are also consistent with impaired white matter connectivity to anterior temporal cortex and prefrontal cortex documented in these individuals. These results implicate CP as disconnection syndrome, rather than an alteration localized to a particular brain region. Furthermore, they offer an account for the known behavioral differential difficulty in identity versus emotional expression recognition in many individuals with CP.

Functional role and connectivity of perirhinal cortex in face processing

Speaker: Ed O’Neil; University of Western Ontario
Authors: Stefan Köhler, University of Western Ontario

The prevailing view of medial temporal lobe (MTL) functioning holds that its structures are dedicated to declarative long-term memory. Recent evidence challenges this view, suggesting that perirhinal cortex (PrC), which interfaces the MTL with the ventral visual pathway, supports highly integrated object representations that are critical for perceptual as well as for memory-based discriminations. Here, we review research conducted with fMRI in healthy individuals that addresses the role of PrC, and its functional connectivity, in the context of face processing. Our research shows that (i) PrC exhibits a performance-related involvement in recognition-memory as well as in perceptual oddball judgments for faces; (ii) PrC involvement in perceptual tasks is related to demands for face individuation; (ii) PrC exhibits resting-state connectivity with the FFA and the amygdala that has behavioural relevance for the face-inversion effect; (iii) task demands that distinguish recognition-memory from perceptual-discrimination tasks are reflected in distinct patterns of functional connectivity between PrC and other cortical regions, rather than in differential PrC activity. Together, our findings challenge the view that mnemonic demands are the sole determinant of PrC involvement in face processing, and that its response to such demands uniquely distinguishes its role from that of more posterior ventral visual pathway regions. Instead, our findings point to the importance of considering the nature of representations and functional connectivity in efforts to elucidate the contributions of PrC and other cortical structures to face processing.

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2014 Symposia

Vision and eye movements in natural environments

Organizers: Brian J. White & Douglas P. Munoz, Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

Historically, the study of vision has largely been restricted to the use of simple stimuli in controlled tasks where observers are required to maintain stable gaze, or make stereotyped eye movements. This symposium presents some of the latest research aimed at understanding how the visual system behaves during unconstrained viewing of natural scenes, dynamic video, and real-world environments. Understanding how we perceive and act upon complex natural environments has potential to revolutionize our understanding of the brain, from machine vision and artificial intelligence to clinical applications such as the detection of visual or mental disorders and neuro-rehabilitation. More…

Beyond the FFA: The role of the ventral anterior temporal lobes in face processing

Organizer: Jessica Collins & Ingrid Olson, Temple University

Although accruing evidence has shown that face-selective patches in the ventral anterior temporal lobes (vATLs) are highly interconnected with the FFA and OFA, and that they play a necessary role in facial perception and identification, the contribution of these brain areas to the face-processing network remains elusive. The goal of this symposium is to bring together researchers from a variety of disciplines to address the following question: What is the functional role of the vATLs in face perception and memory, and how do they interact with the greater face network? More…

Mid-level representations in visual processing

Organizer: Jonathan Peirce, University of Nottingham

The majority of studies in vision science focus on the representation of low-level features, such as edges, color or motion processing, or on the representation of high-level constructs such as objects, faces and places. Surprisingly little work aims to understand the link between the two; the intermediate representations of “mid-level” vision. This symposium invites a series of speakers that have spent time working on mid-level vision to present their views on what those intermediate representations might be, of the problems that such processing must overcome, and the methods that we might use to understand them better. More…

The visual white-matter matters! Innovation, data, methods and applications of diffusion MRI and fiber tractography

Organizers: Franco Pestilli & Ariel Rokem, Stanford University

Many regions of the cerebral cortex are involved in visual perception and cognition. In this symposium, we will focus on the neuroanatomical connections between them. To study the visual white-matter connections, speakers in this symposium use diffusion MRI (dMRI), an imaging method that probes the directional diffusion of water. The talks will present studies of connectivity between visual processing streams, development of visual white matter, and the role of white matter in visual disorders. We will also survey publicly available resources available to the Vision Sciences community to extend the study of the visual white matter. More…

What are you doing? Recent advances in visual action recognition research.

Organizers: Stephan de la Rosa & Heinrich Bülthoff, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics

Knowing what another person is doing by visually observing the other person’s actions (action recognition) is critical for human survival. Although humans often have little difficulty recognizing the actions of others, the underlying psychological and neural processes are complex. The understanding of these processes has not only implications for the scientific community but also for the development of man-machine interfaces, robots, and artificial intelligence. The current symposium summarizes recent scientific advances in the realm of action recognition by providing an integrative view on the processes underlying action recognition. More…

Understanding representation in visual cortex: why are there so many approaches and which is best?

Organizers: Thomas Naselaris & Kendrick Kay, Department of Neurosciences, Medical University of South Carolina & Department of Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis

Central to visual neuroscience is the problem of representation: what features of the visual world drive activity in the visual system? In recent years a variety of new methods for characterizing visual representation have been proposed. These include multivariate pattern analysis, representational similarity analysis, the use of abstract semantic spaces, and models of stimulus statistics. In this symposium, invitees will present recent discoveries in visual representation, explaining the generality of their approach and how it might be applicable to future studies. Through this forum we hope to move towards an integrative approach that can be shared across experimental paradigms. More…

2014 Young Investigator – Duje Tadin

Duje Tadin

Associate Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Center for Visual Science, Department of Ophthalmology, University Of Rochester, NY, USA

Duje Tadin is the 2014 winner of the Elsevier/VSS Young Investigator Award. Trained at Vanderbilt, Duje Tadin was awarded the PhD. in Psychology in 2004 under the supervision of Joe Lappin. After 3 years of post-doctoral work in Randolph Blake’s lab, he took up a position at the University of Rochester, where he is currently an associate professor. Duje’s broad research goal is to elucidate neural mechanisms that lead to human visual experience. He seeks converging experimental evidence from a range of methods, including human psychophysics, computational modeling, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), neuroimaging, research on special populations, collaborations on primate neurophysiology, and adaptive optics to control retinal images. Duje is probably best known for his elegant and illuminating research on spatial mechanisms of visual motion perception – work that has had a lasting impact on the field. He developed a new method to quantify motion perception using brief, ecologically relevant time scales, and then used it to discover a functionally important phenomenon of spatial suppression: larger motion patterns are paradoxically more difficult to see. Duje’s results revealed joint influences of spatial integration and segmentation mechanisms, showing that the balance between these two competing mechanisms is not fixed but varies with visibility, with spatial summation giving way to spatial suppression as visibility increases. He has also made significant contributions to several high-profile papers dealing with binocular rivalry, rapid visual adaptation, multi-sensory interactions, and visual function in individuals with low-vision and children with autism.

Elsevier/Vision Research Article

Dr. Tadin’s presentation:

Suppressive neural mechanisms: from perception
to intelligence

Monday, May 19, 12:30 pm, Talk Room 2

Perception operates on an immense amount of incoming information that greatly exceeds brain’s processing capacity. Because of this fundamental limitation, our perceptual efficiency is constrained by the ability to suppress irrelevant information. Here, I will present a series of studies
investigating suppressive mechanisms in visual motion processing, namely perceptual suppression of large, background-like motions. We find that these suppressive mechanisms are adaptive, operating only when the sensory input is sufficiently strong to guarantee visibility. Utilizing a range of methods, we link these behavioral results with inhibitory center-surround receptive fields, such as those in cortical area MT.

What are functional roles of spatial suppression? Spatial suppression is weaker in old age and schizophrenia—as evident by paradoxically better-than-normal performance in some conditions. Moreover, these subjects also exhibit deficits in figure-ground segregation, suggesting a functional
connection. In recent studies, we report direct experimental evidence for a functional link between spatial suppression and figure-ground segregation.

Finally, I will argue that the ability to suppress information is a fundamental neural process that applies not only to perception but also to cognition in general. Supporting this argument, we find that individual differences in spatial suppression of motion signals strongly predict individual variations in WAIS IQ scores (r = 0.71).

2014 Student Travel Awards

Carrie Bailey
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Advisor: Steven Prime
Antoine Barbot
Department of Psychology, New York University
Advisor: Marisa Carrasco
Ben de Haas
University College London
Advisor: Geraint Rees
Chaz Firestone
Yale University
Advisors: Frank Keil and Brian Scholl
Sebastian Frank
Dartmouth College
Advisor: Peter Tse
Sara Garcia
UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Advisors: Dr. Marko Nardini and Prof. Gary Rubin
Liu Liu
McGill University & Montreal Neurological Institute
Advisor: Christopher Pack
Delphine Massendari
Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, UMR 7290, Laboratoire de psychologie cognitive, France
Advisor: Françoise Vitu
Kimberly Meier
University of British Columbia
Advisor: Deborah Giaschi
David Alex Mély
Brown Institute for Brain Science, Brown University
Advisor: Thomas Serre
Stefania Moro
Centre for Vision Research, York University
Advisor: Jennifer Steeves
Zoe Oliver
Bangor University, UK
Advisor: Charles Leek
Stefanie Peykarjou
Heidelberg University and Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Advisors: Sabina Pauen and Bruno Rossion
Mahalakshmi Ramamurthy
Human Vision Lab, Department of Brain Sciences, UMass Boston
Advisor: Erik Blaser
Mehdi Senoussi
CerCo, CNRS UMR 5549 and Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France
Advisors: Leila Reddy and Rufin VanRullen
Manuel Spitschan
University of Pennsylvania
Advisors: David H. Brainard & Geoffrey K. Aguirre
Edgar Walker
Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience
Advisors: Andreas Tolias and Wei Ji Ma
Emily Ward
Yale University
Advisors: Marvin Chun and Brian Scholl
Jonathan R. Williford
Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine
Advisor: Rudiger von der Heydt
Qing Yu
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College
Advisor: Won Mok Shim
Vision Sciences Society