Perception and Cognition


Perception and Cognition group at the ENI investigates how humans combine different sources of information. Even our simplest actions, say opening a door to enter a room, involve combining sensory cues (the shape, distance and appearance of the door) and internal goal-directed information (the incentive to grab a cup of coffee, etc.). Cognitive neuroscience has sought to understand how top-down, goal-directed signals such as selective attention, stimulus value and past selection history are combined with bottom-up information related to the sensory features of stimuli (for reviews see Desimone, 1998; Treue, 2001; Connor et al., 2004; Pessoa and Engelmann, 2010; Friston, 2005, Gilbert and Sigman, 2007). Several converging lines of evidence have pointed to a tight interaction between perceptual and cognitive factors, that encompass both higher and lower brain areas (see among others Pooresmaeili et al., 2014 a,b). This dynamic view of cortical processing constitutes a paradigm shift in cognitive neuroscience that differs from classical modular and hierarchical models (Felleman and Van Essen, 1991). With each paradigm shift comes a host of unanswered questions. Our current goals are to understand:

  1. How value signals from different sensory modalities affect early perception (see Pooresmaeili et al. 2014a)

  2. How abstract top-down signals gain their sensory specificity

  3. How different top-down signals such as attention and reward interact

To address these questions, we are using functional imaging techniques and psychophysics in humans to obtain behavioral and neuronal data. We then apply various data analysis and computational modeling approaches to make sense of the brain-behavior relationship.


Selected recent publications:

  • Arezoo Pooresmaeili, Thomas H. B. FitzGerald, Dominik R. Bach, Ulf Toelcha, Florian Ostendorf, Raymond J. Dolan: Cross-modal effects of value on perceptual acuity and stimulus encoding. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/2014;

  • Arezoo Pooresmaeili, Jasper Poort, Pieter R Roelfsema: Simultaneous selection by object-based attention in visual and frontal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 04/2014; 111(17).

  • Arezoo Pooresmaeili, Pieter R Roelfsema: A Growth-Cone Model for the Spread of Object-Based Attention during Contour Grouping. Current biology: CB 11/2014; 24(24).

  • Arezoo Pooresmaeili, Roberto Arrighi, Laura Biagi, Maria Concetta Morrone: Blood Oxygen Level-Dependent Activation of the Primary Visual Cortex Predicts Size Adaptation Illusion. The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 10/2013; 33(40):15999-16008.

  • Arezoo Pooresmaeili, Jasper Poort, Alexander Thiele, Pieter R Roelfsema: Separable Codes for Attention and Luminance Contrast in the Primary Visual Cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 09/2010; 30(38):12701-11.


The Rewarded Perception Project (Functional circuits mediating the effects of reward value on perception within and across sensory modalities) receives funding from H2020-EU.1.1. - EXCELLENT SCIENCE Programme - European Research Council (ERC) under grant agreement n° 716846.


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