Brian A. Wandell
Election Year: 2003
Primary Section: 52, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Membership Type: Member
For most of us, there is an apparent simplicity to seeing. This simplicity belies the sophisticated neural computations needed to interpret the visual world. We can learn about the neural computations of vision by building instruments to perform visual tasks, or by studying the dramatic loss of perceptual abilities following cortical damage. We can also learn about visual computations by modeling the relationship between perception and human cortical signals and circuitry. For example, my laboratory has analyzed the visual computations needed to assign a constant color to an object, despite enormous variations in both intensity and color of the ambient illumination. Also, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we identified many of the distinct cortical areas within the human brain. From such measurements, we are learning about the specialized cortical computations for color, motion, and form. Using diffusion tensor imaging, a magnetic resonance imaging method that provides information about the neural connections between different regions of the brain, we are learning about the development of connections between brain areas. The development of neural pathways that perform challenging visual recognition tasks, such as reading, is of special interest. We hope to understand more about how the brain develops an expertise for reading, and to learn how these neural signals are communicated to regions of the brain that compute language and thought.