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Sensation, Cognition, and Action Section

About our work

The Sensation, Cognition and Action Section aims to answer three fundamental questions. What are the computational goals of sensation, perception and cognition? What are the neural circuits, structures and operations in humans that implement these goals? And how do these components develop? Obtaining this knowledge will not only deepen our understanding of the human mind/brain and how vision works but also generate new ideas for tackling mental illnesses. To address these questions we leverage a range of techniques, including psychophysics and MRI in humans; along with experiments in non-human primates using fMRI-guided microelectrode recording, fMRI-guided pharmacological blockade, microstimulation, tract-tracing, and computational modeling.

Selected publications

Gibson, E., Futrell, R., Jara-Ettinger, J., Mahowald, K., Bergen, L., Ratnasingam, S., … Conway, B. R. (2017). Color naming across languages reflects color use. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 114(40), 10785-10790. doi:10.1073/pnas.1619666114

Lafer-Sousa, R., & Conway, B. R. (2017). #TheDress: Categorical perception of an ambiguous color image. J Vis, 17(12), 25. doi:10.1167/17.12.25

Bohon, K. S., Hermann, K. L., Hansen, T., & Conway, B. R. (2016). Representation of Perceptual Color Space in Macaque Posterior Inferior Temporal Cortex (the V4 Complex). eNeuro, 3(4). doi:10.1523/ENEURO.0039-16.2016

Lafer-Sousa R, Conway* BR, Kanwisher* NG (2016) Color-biased Regions of the Ventral Visual Pathway Lie between Face- and Place- Selective Regions in Humans, as in Macaques. Journal of Neuroscience 36(5),1682-97. * co-senior authors (equal contribution)

Lafer-Sousa R, Hermann KL, Conway BR (2015) Striking differences in color perception uncovered by ‘The Dress’ photograph. Current Biology published on-line May 14, 2015. DOI:

Verhoef B-E, Bohon KS, Conway BR (2015) Functional Architecture for disparity in macaque inferior temporal cortex and its relationship to the architecture for faces, color, scenes, and visual field. Journal of Neuroscience 35(17):6952– 696

Zaidi Q, Marshall J, Thoen H, Conway BR (2014) Evolution of neural computations: Mantis shrimp and human colour vision. iperception, 5:492–496

Gagin G, Bohon KS, Butensky A, Gates M, Jiun-Yiing H, Lafer-Sousa R, Reitumetse PL, Qu J, Stoughton CM, Swanbeck SN, Conway BR (2014) Color detection thresholds in macaque monkeys and humans. Journal of Vision 14(8):12, 1–15

Conway BR (2014) Color signals through dorsal and ventral visual pathways. Visual Neurosciences 31(3):285-6. Advanced Online Publication (Oct. 8, 2013) 10.1017/S0952523813000382.

Lafer-Sousa R, Conway BR (2013) Parallel, multi-stage processing of colors, faces and shapes in macaque inferior temporal cortex. Nature Neuroscience 16(12):1870-8. Advanced Publication (October 2013) 10.1038/nn.3555 (recommended by F1000)

Hubel DH, Wiesel TW, Yeagle EM, Lafer-Sousa R, Conway BR (2013) Binocular stereoscopy in visual areas V-2, V-3 and V-3A of the macaque monkey. Cerebral Cortex Advanced Online Publication (Oct. 11, 2013) 10.1093/cercor/bht288 (recommended by F1000)

Cavanagh P, Conway BR, Freedberg D, Rosenberg R (2013) Sciences cognitives et histoire de l’art, une coopération en devenir? [Cognitive science and art history: a partnership in the making?]. Perspective, la Revue de Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art. 1 (Période moderne/Époque contemporaine): 11-28.

Conway BR, Rehding A (2013) Neuroaesthetics and the trouble with beauty. PLoS Biology 11:e1001504. (see Nature commentary)

Roe AW, Chelazzi L, Connor CE, Conway BR, Fujita I, Gallant J, Lu HD, Vanduffel W (2012) Towards a unified theory of visual area V4. Neuron 74:12-29.

Stoughton CM, Lafer-Sousa R, Gagin G, Conway BR (2012) Psychophysical chromatic mechanisms in macaque monkey. Journal of Neuroscience 32(43):15216-26

Lafer-Sousa R, Liu YO, Lafer-Sousa L, Wiest MC, Conway BR (2012) Color tuning in alert macaque V1 assessed with fMRI and single-unit recording shows a bias towards daylight colors. Journal of the Optical Society of America 29(5):657-70

Conway BR (2012) Doing Science Making Art, Trends in Cognitive Science, 16(6):310-312

Conway BR (2012) Color consilience: color through the lens of art practice, history, philosophy, and neuroscience. Annals of the New York Academy of Science (Cognitive Science Annual Issue)   1251:77-94

Sensation, Cognition, and Action Section key staff

Key staff table
Name Title Email Phone
Bevil R. Conway, Ph.D. Senior Investigator 301-594-3238

News from this lab

Envision color: Activity patterns in the brain are specific to the color you see

November 16, 2020

Researchers at the National Eye Institute (NEI) have decoded brain maps of human color perception.
color blindness comparison

Rosy Health and Sickly Green: Color Associations Play Robust Role in Reading Faces

July 8, 2019

Anyone who has ever sensed that a person is sick simply by looking at their face has experienced the wealth of information conveyed by face color.

Last updated: July 19, 2019