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Flexible perception: functional plasticity mechanisms in the human brain.

Breaking the camouflage of a nearby object allows a casual rambler to detect a snake in the grass, and a more experienced hiker to determine whether it is a venomous European Adder or harmless grass snake. The visual processes of (1) detecting and segmenting targets from cluttered backgrounds, and (2) discriminating whether similar features belong to the same or different objects are central to many everyday visual activities. Practice in these tasks is known to make us better: training and experience improve our core skills in visual recognition. Yet the functional brain architecture that supports these processes, and their plasticity in normal and abnormal function, is poorly understood.

We exploit recent technological advances in magnetic resonance imaging to trace how the brain changes with learning at much finer resolution than previously possible.

In collaboration with Charlotte Stagg, University of Oxford.