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Psychological Sciences

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Isabel Gauthier

David K. Wilson Chair of Psychology
Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences

Gauthier studies visual object recognition, with particular emphasis on the plasticity of recognition mechanisms and their neural substrate. One issue that is of particular interest to her is how the visual system organizes itself into what appears to be category-specific modules. For instance, face recognition is often given as an example of a highly specialized module that may function independently from general object recognition mechanisms but many behavioral and neuroimaging studies from the Gauthier lab have suggested that the specialization we see in behavior and the brain for faces results to a large extent from our extensive experience with faces. In recent work the cortical thickness of the fusiform face area was found to predict both face and object recognition abilities and we are exploring these relations at an even finer scale, in deep vs. superficial cortical layers that may reflect effects of expertise that occur relatively early or later in life. The Gauthier lab is also involved in measuring and testing hypotheses about individual differences in high-level visual abilities, including domain-specific experience as well as domain-general ability that may be able to predict the potential to learn across a number of visual domains. The lab is involved in collaborative activities funded by the NSF to study how variation in general visual abilities and specific visual experiences affect our visual behavior, using a combination of ultra-high-field brain imaging, structural equation modeling, item response analysis and “deep” convolutional neural network models of vision.

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