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Studying feature specific mechanisms of the human visual system

Kaul, C.E.; (2010) Studying feature specific mechanisms of the human visual system. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

What are the current limits of our knowledge of brain activity underlying vision and can I further this knowledge? In this thesis, I explore this basic question. I focus on those aspects of visual input that can be described as basic features of visual perception. Examples include orientation, color, direction of motion and spatial frequency. However, understanding how humans visually perceive the external world is closely related with the study of attention. Attention, that is, the selection of some aspects of the environment over others, is one of the most intensively studied areas in experimental psychology, yet its neural mechanisms remain largely elusive. This thesis focuses on three distinct topics at the border of feature specific visual perception and feature-specific visual attention. First, in a series of studies, I explore the influence of heightened attentional demand to a central task to feature-specific neural processing in the ignored periphery. I discover that heightened attentional demand does not influence feature-specific representations in early visual cortices. Second, I investigate the influence of feature-based attention on neural processing of early visual cortices. At the same time, I also probe the influence of a behavioral decision to deploy feature-specific attention in the imminent future. I find that feature-based attention operates independent of other types of attention. Additionally, results indicate that a behavioral decision to deploy feature-based attention alone, without visual stimulation present, is able to modulate neural activity in early visual cortices. Third, I examine the more complex feature of facial gender and where in the brain gender discrimination might receive neural processing. I find that, in an established network of face-selective brain areas, facial gender is represented in nearly all areas of that network. Finally, I discuss all findings in the light of the current state of research, for their scientific significance and for future research opportunities.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Studying feature specific mechanisms of the human visual system
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Psychology and Language Sciences (Division of) > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

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