The world is a "blooming, buzzing confusion". However, our visual system has an extraordinary ability to make sense of the "confusion". Disheveled visual information composed from array of dots, line segments and simple shapes can be interpreted into an orderly collection of discrete objects. Yet the visual processes are often rapid, seemingly effortless, far beyond any artificial intelligence at present can accomplish. Our research goal is to understand how the brain organizes the visual world into meaningful entities.
Selection, construction and categorization are three key components of visual cognition. Imagine that you are in a toy store. To efficiently find the toy your newborn would like, you need to selectively focus on the shelf full of hanging mobiles while suppressing visual distraction from toddler toys and board games. On the shelf of mobiles rummaged through by previous shoppers, some lovely cartoon figures may be partially hidden behind others. Therefore amodal completion is necessary for you to locate them. Finally, categorical perception disambiguates your baby's favorite Sesame character from other similar toys, which eventually leads to your decision to buy it. In this manner, the three mechanisms of selection, construction and categorization work in tandem to allow us to interpret and interact with a complex visual world. Our research interests focus on the neural bases of these perceptual mechanisms and their interactions. The techniques we bring to bear in addressing these issues include behavioral experimentation, functional brain imaging, and computational modeling. The subject populations we work with include both normal adult observers as well as individuals with atypical developmental histories or neurological disorders.