From hallucinations to the imagination: Seeing what’s not there and measuring it in normal observers


Friday, 12 August, 2016 -
16:00 to 17:00


Level 2, Room 2.030, North Wing, Rupert Myers Building, UNSW Kensington


School of Optometry and Vision Science

Type of event: 


Audience / Guests: 

Public / All
Cases of visual awareness without a corresponding stimulus occur in special conditions, such as pathological hallucinations, dreaming, mental imagery, synaesthesia and some illusions. Hallucinations can also be perceived as sweeping waves of visibility that occur when exposed to full field luminance flicker. However, a primary problem with such percepts is the inability to objectively measure the ‘hallucinated’ content. Here, I will talk about new methods to objectively measure two different types of visual phantom perception: mental imagery and flicker induced hallucinations. Using perceptual methods, we have shown that visual phantoms or non-retinal vision can be local in visual space, undergo adaptation and priming, are linked to cortical excitability and visual cortex anatomy, and can even be bistable. These new methods provide novel tools to investigate the constructive nature of visual awareness in function and dysfunction.


A/Prof Joel Pearson is a National Health and Medical Research Council fellow and Prof. of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. He is the director of the Pearson Lab, a multidisciplinary agile Cognitive Neuroscience research group that does both fundamental and clinical research, consults with companies, artists and designers on brain science and is the founder and director of the UNSW Science of Innovation Lab (UNSW SIL), a world first, hands on human-centered research lab working on the Psychology and Neuroscience of innovation and entrepreneurship, how to train, boost and predict these characteristics. Joel’s research has been recognized with major accolades including the 2009 William James award for the greatest scientific contribution to understanding consciousness. His team’s efforts have been featured in The Huffington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, LiveScience, Discovery Channel, BBC and a host of other major media outlets.