The Visual Cognition Group

The Visual Cognition Group at UBC is a research core in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences with links to the Division of Neurology and the Department of Psychology. Our goals are to advance our understanding of human visual processing and ocular motor control, with a particular focus on the role of the brain in these processes, and to determine how these functions are altered in various disorders of the brain. We share a common research approach in that we study human subjects with a range of behavioural, computational and neuroimaging techniques.

Dr. Jason JS Barton:

Our laboratory has both a visual and an ocular motor arm, both aimed at understanding high-level cognitive aspects of perception and behaviour. In vision, we focus on object recognition, in particular our ability to identify faces, but also with studies on word processing and navigational orientation. We use three main approaches: normal human psychophysics, neuropsychological studies of patients, and functional MRI. We also have collaborations that use event-related potentials. We helped found the International Prosopagnosia Study Group, which studies patients with the rare acquired variant from all over North America. Our ocular motor studies focus on saccadic control, particularly using the antisaccade task, as a platform for exploring cognitive modulating factors, such as task-switching, recent history, future expectations, reward and distractor effects. Our goal is to apply these paradigms to the study of disorders such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Deborah Giaschi:

Visual and auditory perceptual abilities develop rapidly in infants, but considerable maturation occurs in preschool and elementary school-aged children. Several things can go wrong during the course of this development and a child may be left with perceptual deficits that interfere with different aspects of life. Of particular interest is temporal processing ability that involves the perception of things that move, flicker or change rapidly over time. The goal of my research is to understand the normal development of the underlying brain structures that control temporal processing abilities and to discover the changes in the brain that result in temporal processing deficits. I focus specifically on a developmental visual disorder called amblyopia, or lazy eye, and a developmental reading disorder called dyslexia, using a combination of behavioural and neuroimaging techniques.

Dr Ipek Oruc:

I study visual recognition of complex patterns and high level visual stimuli such as faces, letters and objects. The purpose of my research is to understand how meaningful perceptions emerge from brain processes in response to complex visual images. Specifically, I focus on cortical localization of function and deciphering the computations that take place within these brain regions during the recognition process. In my lab we use a wide variety of methodologies from behavioral and psychophysical experimentation, to computational modeling, and neuroimaging (fMRI, ERP). Potential applications of this line of research are relevant to both normal and patient populations. These include methods to improve performance in everyday tasks, such as reading, and rehabilitation paradigms to restore normal function in cases of impaired recognition due to brain injury such as prosopagnosia, or developmental dysfunction such as dyslexia, autism.

Dr. Miriam Spering:

I am a psychologist and neuroscientist investigating how the brain uses visual information to control eye movements. My lab uses eye movement recordings and methods from psychophysics to study the visual signals that guide smooth pursuit eye movements–the key effector response of the eyes to moving stimuli–in healthy observers and patients. Most recently we reported that eye movements react to moving stimuli that are not consciously perceived–a dissociation revealing some of the neural mechanisms behind visual perception and eye movements. Many neurological, psychiatric and developmental disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and strabismic amblyopia, are associated with eye movement deficits. One of our current research goals is to explore whether eye movement training can help improve vision in these patients.