Perception and Attention
Full course description
The objective of the course is to present the groundwork based on which students will be able to understand current neuro-cognitive theories and experimental methods in the field of visual perception and attention. This will be achieved via discussion of a set of core papers in this field.
Vision is a complex cognitive process which provides us with a richer stream of information than any other sense. The primate visual cortex is composed of a network of at least 30 highly interconnected functionally specialized regions. The regions where visual information first enters the cortex are called early visual areas. Neurons in these areas have relatively simple properties, and their small receptive fields are arranged to form retinotopic maps of the environment on the cortex. Higher level visual processing occurs in a ventral and dorsal stream, which are respectively contributing to object perception and the perception of motion.
The network contributing to visual perception can adapt to the task that the organism is faced with. This is the case, for example, when looking for someone in a crowd and attending to one face at a time. There are many kinds of attention, but attention can be generally described as involving some type of information selection.
In this course, neural mechanisms underlying prototypical examples of low and high level perception will be studied, as well as neural mechanisms underlying selective attention. The course will discuss both historically important papers, as well as more recent research in visual perception and attention, involving different empirical methods including psychophysics, neurophysiology, and functional brain imaging but with an emphasis on animal neurophysiology.
- gain knowledge and understanding of the human and non-human primate visual system (structure and function), in terms of low-level and high-level visual perception as well as visual attention;
- gain knowledge regarding acquisition and analysis of data in the methodological fields of neurophysiology and psychophysics;
- acquire the capability of detailed, in-depth reading of scientific papers, which involves (I) the understanding and evaluation of methods, (II) the understanding/contrasting of (quantitative) theories and models and the evaluation of their fit with the data, and (III) the critical evaluation of interpretations of presented data by the article’s authors;
- improve their ability to use scientific terminology while verbalizing and discussing insights and questions raised by the readings;
- be able to apply the acquired scientific reading and evaluation skills to papers outside the field of visual perception and attention;
- generally improve their ability of theorizing, hypothesis formation, and experimental design.