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Sensation & Perception

Sensation is an area of study that is based on facts and theories from a wide array of sources such as anatomy and physiology, physics and optics, cognitive neuroscience and psychology, and biochemistry and genetics. The study of sensation and perception is the oldest sub-discipline within Psychology and the visual system is one of the best worked out neurological systems in the body. Nonetheless, Sensation remains a dynamic and growing area of interdisciplinary study.

Sensation research within the Department of Psychology encompasses this breadth and focus with faculty that concentrate on the sensory, perceptual, and cognitive aspects of the field. 


Drew Abney

  • Drew Abney focuses on how behaviors and social interactions early in development impact developmental trajectories throughout infancy and into toddlerhood. Studies conducted in the lab use various techniques: from conducting controlled laboratory experiments to free-flowing toy play sessions to collecting daylong multimodal (e.g., vocalizations, body movements, etc.) behavioral data. In the lab, we are motivated to apply existing techniques from applied computational social science and dynamical systems theory and also develop new computational and analytic methods to understand the dynamics of development during infancy and early childhood.    

James M. Brown

  • James M. Brown studies visual perception, perceptual organization, and attention. Research in the Visual Perception Laboratory is aimed at trying to understand how we organize, perceive, and attend to our visual world. Our general research approach could be described as a combination of cognitive psychophysics and visual neuroscience. We use psychophysical methods to explore the relationship between the physical stimulus and what is perceived (i.e., cognitive psychophysics) while at the same time seeking to understand these perceptual experiences based on current knowledge about the neural machinery of the visual brain (i.e., visual neuroscience). An example of this approach includes recent studies of figure-ground perception from the perspective of activity within and between the dorsal and ventral visual streams. Other examples of topics of study include illusions, objects, and scenes. Recent collaborative research has expanded this approach to eye movement behavior.

Brett Clementz

  • Brett Clementz has two general goals. The first is to understand how accurate sensory processing is maintained within the context of changing environmental circumstances. The second is to understand neurobiological distinctions between different subgroups of brain diseases called the psychoses (defined clinically by the presence of hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive disturbance), which have demonstrated, for the majority of cases to have a substantial genetic diathesis. For Dr. Clementz, the first goal, which often involves the study of the healthy brain, informs the second goal of understanding deviations in brain functions associated with manifestation of psychosis in order to facilitate improved diagnosis and treatment of severe psychiatric disorders. The methodological core of Dr. Clementz’ research involves use of simple and complex behavioral paradigms combined with use of neuroimaging technologies including electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He uses sophisticated approaches to analyzing data collected with these technologies and is known for developing innovative analysis techniques. He and Dr. McDowell co-direct the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.

Billy Hammond

  • Billy Hammond studies how lifestyle, primarily dietary, influences both the development of degenerative disease and the normal function of the central nervous system. For example, he uses psychophysical methods to measure the concentration of the dietary carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin within the fovea (termed macular pigment or the macula lutea) and have related those pigments to various aspects of retinal and brain function.

Dean Sabatinelli

  • Dean Sabatinelli is interested in defining the brain mechanisms involved in the discrimination of emotional stimuli, and specifically how the recruited cortical and subcortical structures are orchestrated in real time. In addition to basic science, a major goal is to understand how these dynamic mechanisms contribute to disorders of emotion.

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