Understanding Visual Memory

In the Volen Center at Brandeis University, Bob Sekuler and Michael Kahana (pictured at the right) are working to understand visual memory. Their research efforts benefit from the expert assistance of Feng Zhou and Yuko Yotsumoto, graduate students at Brandeis.

To study visual memory, our group exploits stimulus materials that are difficult to encode verbally. The idea is to isolate and study a form of memory in which words make relatively little contribution as mnemonic aids. The demonstrations presented here use compound sinusoidal gratings (plaid patterns) or computer-generated, synthetic human faces as memory test items.

These demonstrations should allow you to appreciate how fragile visual memory can be, and how easily memory for one item can disrupted by successive items.

Demos with gratings Demos with synthetic faces

Our research on memory for synthetic faces is led by Yuko Yotsumoto, with the collaboration of Sekuler and Hugh R. Wilson (York University, Toronto). An inital account of the work with memory for gratings appeared in MJ Kahana and R Sekuler (2002) "Recognizing spatial patterns: a noisy exemplar approach" Vision Research18, 2177-2192. Click for abstract. A second set of results, from a study led by Feng Zhou, will appear soon, Zhou, Kahana and Sekuler (in press) "A roving probe gathers some memory."

For more information on any aspect of this research contact Robert Sekuler