I am Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and a member of the Center for Visual Science at University of Rochester [CV]. I investigate how the visual system transforms spatiotemporally fragmented retinal images into discrete object representations and how this transformation becomes compromised during serious mental illness. This question is approached with a variety of psychophysical and modeling techniques such as ideal observer, path analysis, classification imaging, Fourier spatial frequency analysis, signal detection, and adaptive threshold estimation. Over the years, I have also written on theoretical questions in cognitive science that are related to object perception, such as the extent to which early vision is cognitively encapsulated or the best way to characterize the content of sensory representations. Most recently, I have harnessed tools in functional MRI to understand the brain networks underlying perceptual organization in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Our clinical studies have shown that schizophrenia can dramatically disrupt aspects of perceptual organization. Some of the impairments are linked to the ability to think clearly and function normally in everyday life. Others arise as early as the first psychotic episode or even during the prodromal phase, suggesting that they may serve as an illness biomarker. More generally, we are finding that relatively simple visual experiments offer surprising insights into how the illness emerges and how it changes the brain over time.