Brain and Perception Lab
Bilkent University

Research in our lab focuses on visual perception, aiming to understand the mechanisms by which the brain is able to construct a rich perceptual experience from the inherently ambiguous retinal input. Specifically, we investigate what kind of information the visual system utilizes to estimate object qualities and how this information is extracted by the brain. We use a combination of methods including psychophysical experimentation, computational modeling, pattern analysis, neuroimaging and patient studies. We are funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TUBA), FP7 and E-Rare. Our lab is affiliated with the Department of Psychology, the National Magnetic Resonance Research Center, and the Neuroscience Program.

Visual perception of object qualities: material, motion and 3D shape.
A crucial task of the human visual system is to determine the qualities of the material that an object is made of. Correct identification of surface material qualities affects basic decisions such as whether food is edible, skin is healthy, a road is slippery, or whether an object is pliable. Humans perceive these qualities, and anticipate their consequences in a split second. Still, little is known about how the brain recognizes materials. Using psychophysics and functional MRI we investigate how image motion influences object appearance, in particular the perception of material qualities, 3D shape and object motion.

Machine Vision: detection and identification of surface reflectance.
Successful identification of specularities in an image can be crucial for an artificial vision system when extracting the semantic content of an image, while interacting with the environment or when estimating the shape of an object. We apply the insights gained from human perception to develop novel approaches to detect and identify surface reflectances in motion sequences.

Brain structure and function in rare genetic cases.
We investigate cortical structure and visual perceptual abilities of a patient with a congenital malformation of the occipital cortex. The gene underlying this structural change has recently been discovered (Barak et al. 2011), thus, this presents a unique opportunity to understand how this gene may affect brain structure and visual function, or conversely, the compensatory mechanisms of neural plasticity - should we find that most visual function is preserved despite the striking anatomical abnormalities. Using magnetic resonance imaging, we study the cortical structure, connectivity and function of the patient, along with basic and more specific tests of visual perception such as attention, motion - and object perception.

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Copyright Katja Doerschner 2014