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Research groups


Our group conducts basic research into the mechanisms underlying normal adult human perception. We also seek to explore potential applications of our findings - for example, in developing new display technologies and in understanding limitations of vision in disease.

Hannah Smithson

BA (Hons) PhD

Professor of Experimental Psychology

  • Tutorial Fellow, Pembroke College

Vision Science

Research overview

My research focuses on the neural mechanisms that underlie perception.

I am fascinated by how the eye and brain process visual information. My research addresses this question primarily through psychophysical experiments - inferring the perceptual processes that underly particular patterns of human performance on tasks with carefully selected visual stimuli. 

I am particularly interested in the perception of colour. How are the signals from the three classes of cone photoreceptors processed to give rise to our perceptions of hue, saturation and brightness? What are the neural circuits of comparison and combination that permit the efficient transmission of colour information from retina to cortex? How does our perception of colour depend on our ability to identify objects and light sources in the visual scene? I am also interested in the way in which our visual systems process rapid sequences of visual events – a sequence of changes in illumination, a sequence of images from successive fixations, or the complex trajectory of a moving object.

Current projects

A major focus of my current research is to develop an adaptive optics enabled ophthalmoscope to capture images of the retina with high fidelity and to present visual stimuli targeted to particular elements of the retinal microstructure. Our aim is to link stimulation, neural activity and perceptual experience to answer such questions as "How do the neural circuits in human retina adapt to maintain sensitivity across the vast range of environmental light levels?"