Abi Lee at Summer School

Abigail Lee is taking part in the Amsterdam Summer School on brain and mind.

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Sutton Trust Perception Lecture

Today Julie gave a lecture as part of the St. Andrews University Sutton Trust Summer School, to students interested in studying Psychology at University.  Her lecture was entitled: Perception, more than meets the eye?

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Collaboration on material perception: Leverhulme Grant

The Leverhulme Trust has awarded a three-year grant to the University of Aberdeen for the project “Handle with care: Material properties in Vision and Action Control”, directed by Constanze Hesse,  in collaboration with Julie Harris and Martin Giesel. The project will start at the beginning of next year and aims to develop and test an action-based approach to measuring human perception of material properties.

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Studentship collaboration with Aberdeen

Karina Kangur has won funding from Eastbio to undertake a PhD in Aberdeen, supervised by Constanze Hesse and Julie Harris (St. Andrews), on interactions between texture perception with visuo-motor control.

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Philip Cammack

Phil Carmack graduates with his PhD today, for a thesis on 3D camouflage. Congratulations Phil.

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Olivier at Multi-sensory meeting

Olivier Penacchio is at the PIRE Workshop on Multi-sensory Integration. he will be presenting a poster on “Multisensory integration in animal warning signals”.

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Andrew Chua starts summer internship

Andrew Chua has started a summer internship in the lab, working with Tom Otto and Julie Harris on multi-sensory cue-integration and motion-in-depth.  He is funded by the Experimental Psychology Society Undergraduate Research Bursay Scheme.

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Rachael Jack starts summer internship

Rachael Jack has started her School of Psychology and Neuroscience funded summer internship, working with PhD student Benjamin Portelli on motion-in-depth and binocular rivalry.

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Vision Sciences Society

members of the group are at the Vision Sciences Society conference from 9th-24th May. We have several presentations:

Sunday May 21st:

33.3003 Comparison of horizontal vergence responses to changing disparity and inter-ocular velocity differences Martin Giesel, Julie Harris, Alexandra Yakovleva, Alex Wade, Marina Bloj, Anthony Norcia

33.3008 Speed discrimination for real-world motion in depth Abi- gail Lee, Justin Ales, Julie Harris

36.3003 fMRI reveals S-cone and achromatic contributions to motion-in-depth perception Milena Kaestner, Ryan Maloney, Marina Bloj, Julie Harris, Alex Wade


Julie is also taking part in:

Meet The Professors,  Monday, May 22, 2017, 4:45 – 6:00 pm, Breck Deck North.

Students and postdocs are invited to the second annual “Meet the Professors” event immediately preceding the VSS Dinner and Demo Night This is an opportunity for
a free-wheeling, open-ended discussion with members of the VSS Board and other professors You might chat about science, the annual meeting, building a career, or whatever comes up

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Abstract accepted for multi-sensory workshop

Olivier has had an abstract accept for the PIRE Multi-sensory integration workshop in July.

Multisensory integration in animal warning signals. Olivier Penacchio, Julie M. Harris, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews


Many species in the animal kingdom use camouflage to avoid predation. By contrast, aposematic species use a strategy that makes them easier for would-be predators to spot: they adopt distinctive signals, called warning signals, such as conspicuous colour patterns, sounds, odours or distasteful secretions, to advertise they are defended by being toxic or more generally unprofitable. Common examples of such displays for the visual modality are the yellow-black stripes of wasps and the red-black pattern of ladybirds. Warning signals offer an evolutionarily stable strategy: the increased likelihood of being detected by a predator is outstripped by the enhancement of unlearnt and learnt avoidance that warning displays provoke.

Intriguingly, multimodal warning signals are frequent, with prey relying on combinations of distinctive colour patterns, sounds, odours or secretions to dissuade predation (Rowe & Halpin, 2013). While the efficacy of multimodal warning signals over their unimodal components has been demonstrated empirically, there is a lack of functional understanding of how they impact the brain of the receiver of the signals.

In this work, we explore computationally the potential advantages of multimodal warning signals. We define a model of multisensory integration consisting of two layers of unimodal sensory units and a layer of multisensory units that integrate the unimodal sensory inputs. The layer of multisensory units is reminiscent of the superior colliculus in mammals, or the tectum in birds, one of the main predators of aposematic species. The model includes contextual modulation through excitatory and inhibitory lateral interactions between units within the same layer, similar to that defined in (Ursino, Cuppini, Magosso, Serino, & di Pellegrino, 2009). The unimodal layers are set up to emulate the visual and auditory modalities. As empirically measured in both mammals and birds, the receptive fields of auditory units are larger than that of the visual units (Kadunce, Vaughan, Wallace, & Stein, 2001; Knudsen, 1982). The model reproduces several properties of multisensory integration, such as multisensory enhancement and contrast, within and cross-modality suppression, and the redundant signal effect.

We show that such a generic model of multisensory integration suggests increased efficacy of warning signals, a feature envisioned by biologists as a potentially important selective pressure for the evolution of warning signals (Rowe & Halpin, 2013). In particular, the model is in agreement with the efficacy back-up hypothesis: in noisy environments, a spatial location is much more salient if an auditory signal, even weak, supplements a visual signal, compared to when the activity is driven by the visual signal alone.

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