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Doris Tsao, Ph.D.

The California Institute of Technology


Research in the Tsao laboratory focuses on the mechanisms underlying visual perception in primates. The lab seeks to understands the series of transformations in the visual cortex responsible for our ability to perceive, remember, and act upon visual objects in three-dimensional space. Questions the lab is particularly interested in include: What is the neural code for the surface structure and location of 3D objects? What is the neural code for dynamic events involving interactions between multiple objects? Does the brain possess a generative model capable of converting a high-level concept into a detailed picture, and if so, what is the detailed circuit implementing this generative model? What is the mechanism underlying generation of a conscious visual percept?

In their quest to understand brain mechanisms for visual perception, Dr. Tsao and her team use a wide variety of techniques including fMRI, electrophysiology, electrical stimulation, optogenetics and pharmacological perturbation, anatomical tracing, functional ultrasound, wide-field and two photon calcium imaging, and computational modeling. In particular, the lab has pioneered the use of fMRI-guided electrophysiology to dissect the organization and code of the macaque face patch system, a network of six regions in the temporal lobe and multiple additional satellite regions that are dedicated to processing faces. The remarkable specialization of these regions for processing one specific class of complex objects has opened up many previously intractable questions about high-level perception and cognition.