Isabel Gauthier, Ph.D.

Isabel Gauthier, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology

Research Description

Isabel Gauthier, Ph.D., is a cognitive neuroscientist currently holding the position of David K. Wilson Professor of Psychology and head of the Object Perception Lab. She acquired her PhD at Yale University. In 2000, with the support of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, she founded the Perceptual Expertise Network (PEN),\which now comprises over ten labs based across North America; in 2006 PEN became part of the NSF-funded Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (TDLC).

Gauthier studies visual object recognition, with particular emphasis on the plasticity of recognition mechanisms and their neural substrate. One issue that is of particular interest to her is how the visual system organizes itself into what appears to be category-specific modules. For instance, face recognition is often given as an example of a highly specialized module that may function independently from general object recognition mechanisms. However, faces are among the most visually similar objects that we need to recognize individually and most of us acquire a large amount of expertise in doing so throughout our lives. A diversity of techniques (e.g., expertise training with computer-generated objects, brain-lesion studies, functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments) can be used in order to explore factors that may contribute to the tuning of general mechanisms for the particular problem of face recognition. Current research continues to explore the role of level of categorization (e.g., recognizing an objects a BIRD vs. as a ROBIN) and of expertise in object recognition. Other projects include looking at the role of spatial frequencies in various visual areas involved in object recognition and measuring interactions between the visual and semantic systems.

Selected Publications