UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Experimental Psychology Seminar, Sam Schwarzkopf - University of Auckland

26 March 2024, 10:50 am

Sam Schwarzkopf seminar

We all have a blind spot in our visual field, yet, visual perception appears continuous. Returning to UCL EP, Sam Schwarzkoph joins us to discuss how our brains 'fill in' the visual scene across this gap.

Event Information

Open to



Antonietta Esposito

B01, Chandler House
Meeting ID: 939 9371 4566
Passcode: 847419

Mind the gap - How does the brain interpret gaps in visual input? 
For decades, cognitive neuroscience research has sought to reveal neural correlates of consciousness by testing how the human brain encodes sensory information when the participant is unaware of the stimuli. However, the mechanisms giving rise to our conscious experience of the world remain poorly understood.


In one recent study, we used functional MRI in search of neural correlates of a striking illusion, the perceptual completion across the physiological blind spot. Despite a considerable gap in our retinal input in this region, we are rarely aware of its presence, leading many researchers to propose an active mechanism by which the brain fills in the visual scene across this gap. However, our results instead suggest a different explanation, similar to what Daniel Dennett proposed thirty years ago but which has since largely fallen out of fashion (at least among cognitive scientists).   


Moreover, I will present results from experiments in which we investigated the role of awareness in interpreting fragmented visual information as coherent objects. Previous research had indicated that stimuli that do not reach awareness are encoded differently from conscious stimuli. Our results support this interpretation and suggest that in the absence of awareness, we only encode local features of stimuli. 

John Greenwood

About the Speaker

Sam Schwarzkopf

Associate Head (Research) Optometry and Vision Science at School of Optometry & Vision Science, The University of Auckland

Sam did a neuroscience undergraduate degree at Cardiff University, followed by a PhD with Frank Sengpiel, using optical imaging and single cell electrophysiology to investigate experience-dependent plasticity of visual cortex. Subsequently, he did a brief postdoc at the University of Birmingham, where he moved into human neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience. In 2008, he moved to University College London, first as postdoc with Geraint Rees, and then in 2012 starting his own lab. In 2017, he moved across the globe to the University of Auckland in New Zealand. 

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