Perception, Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience

Area Description (St. George)

Research on cognitive processes has a long history at the University of Toronto, beginning with some of the earliest memory experiments in North America that were conducted by Mark J. Baldwin and August Kirshmann in the late 1800s. The research conducted by the members of the current cognition group reflects a synthesis of traditional topics in cognitive psychology, such as memory, attention, and executive function, with a variety of interdisciplinary topics and techniques.

Morgan Barense studies the neural basis of human long-term memory, how this process might interact with other cognitive systems, and how it deteriorates through brain damage or disease.  To address these questions, she uses behavioural, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging techniques.  

Daphna Buchsbaum's research investigates the complex interplay between social and causal reasoning: How 
children, adults and non-human animals use social information to help them understand the physical world. In addition to behavioral experiments with children and dogs, her lab uses probabilistic computational models to help address some of these questions.

Dirk Bernhardt-Walther’s research explores visual perception of real-world scenes. One focus of his research are the visual features and computational algorithms our brain uses to make sense of the complex visual world surrounding us. For this purpose he uses visual psychophysics, eye tracking and functional magnetic resonance imaging in conjunction with computational modeling.

Wil Cunningham's research is focused on the processes with which people evaluate and make judgments about the world. In particular, research in his lab investigates how goals and motivations shape emotion. His work uses behavioural and neuroscience (EEG, fMRI) methods.

Katherine Duncan studies how the human brain forms and retrieves different types of memories. One focus of her work is on exploring the possibility that slow-acting neuromodulators bias how information is processed and stored in memory. She uses behavioural manipulations, fMRI, pharmacology and neuropsychology along with computational tools to investigate these topics.


Gillian Einstein studies memory, sex differences in the brain, and the how mood and memory vary with hormone levels.

Susanne Ferber's research interests fall within the realm of cognitive neuroscience, with the long-term goal of understanding the cognitive and neural processes that support perceptual awareness. Her work speaks to issues regarding the basic principles of the neural underpinning of visual perception, attention and visually guided action.


Amy Finn's research investigates how maturational changes in cognitive and neural function influence learning. She focuses on how domain-general aspects of development — especially changes in memory systems — influence 
learning across domains, including language acquisition, skill learning, and educational achievement.

Lynn Hasher is interested in the impact of attentional regulation and inhibitory processes on cognition and particularly on retrieval from memory in young and older adults . One focus of her work is on the influence of circadian arousal on cognition and memory.

Michael Mack studies human learning, focusing on how memory and attention systems interact to form new knowledge and influence perception. He employs a combination of behavioral, computational modeling, and neuroscience approaches to investigate the cognitive and neural mechanisms of the learning brain.

Morris Moscovitch studies memory and cognition in younger and older adults, and in people with brain pathology, from a neuropsychological perspective by using behavioural and neuroimaging methodology. He is also concerned with neural mechanisms and processes involved in face recognition.

Jay Pratt does research in the areas of visual cognition and cognitive neuroscience. He is especially interested in how the mechanisms of visual attention interact with perception, cognition, and action (eye movements, limb movements) systems. He also conducts research in the areas of visual psychophysics, motor control and motor learning, and aging.

Nicholas Rule studies person perception, focusing particularly on the accuracy of judgments from minimal nonverbal and facial cues. His work generally falls into two streams: (1) predicting outcomes about people based on minimal cues, and (2) social categorization processes in perceptually ambiguous groups. He holds the distinction of Canada Research Chair in Social Perception and Cognition.

Meg Schlichting studies how the brain supports the formation, modification, and use of knowledge from a developmental perspective. Her research employs cognitive neuroscience techniques (functional and structural MRI) to understand how neural maturation gives rise to developmental differences in the ability to remember and reason.

Ian Spence (emeritus) is interested in the role of visual cognition during everyday activities such as operating vehicles or complex human-computer interfaces, information visualization, reading maps and graphs, playing videogames, etc. His current research involves investigations of spatial attention, spatial working memory, perceptual learning and their roles in higher level spatial cognition. Gender, age, and other individual differences are frequently a focus. Although applications inform most of his research, his major theoretical interest is in understanding basic processes. 

Research at the University of Toronto Scarborough
Research at the University of Toronto Mississauga