Cognitive processing

How we perceive the world shapes how we interact with it.

One of the primary functions of the human brain is to take information from the external world and make sense of it so that we can successfully interact with our environments. Many of the early steps in this process involve creating perceptions of the world based on sensory information. These perceptions are early building blocks for nearly all higher-level cognitive processes such as memory or language.

Using memory as an example, if you ask someone to remember a particular colour, their memory of the colour is going to be based on their visual perception of what they saw. Even though the wavelengths of light that hit both of your retinas were identical, if you perceived the colour differently, you will remember it differently. In the extreme case of this example, if you are colour blind, then your memory of the colour will be very different indeed.

This example extends to almost all cognitive processes. Successful social communications relies on your ability to perceive the visual and auditory information from the person with whom you are conversing. Walking down a hallway relies on your ability to see objects in the hallway that you must walk around. While the lower-level sensory perception aspects of these tasks are often taken for granted, they are integral to our daily cognitive functioning.

Our lab’s research in this area focuses on how visual and auditory perception influence high-order cognitive processing. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. How do individual differences in perception influence performance on higher-level tasks such as speech perception and memory?
  2. How do perceptual difficulties in clinical populations, such as Autism and hearing loss, influence an individual’s ability to perform these cognitive functions?

For peer-reviewed publications on this line of research, see:

Stevenson, R. A., Segers, M., Ferber, S., Barense, M.D., & Wallace, M.T. (2014). The impact of multisensory integration deficits on speech perception in children with autism spectrum disorders. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(379), 1-4.

Stevenson, R. A.,  Siemann, J. K., Woynaroski, T. G., Schneider, B. C., Eberly, H. E., Camarata, S. M., & Wallace, M. T. (2014). Multisensory temporal integration in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Neurocience, 34(3), 691-697.

Schlesinger, J., Stevenson, R.  A., & Wallace, M. T. (2014). Effects of multisensory training on pitch perception of a pulse oximeter. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 118(6), 1249-1253.

Stevenson, R. A., Zemtsov, R. K., & Wallace, M.T. (2012). Individual differences in the multisensory temporal binding window predict susceptibility to audiovisual illusions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28(6): 1517-1529.

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