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Tessa Dekker

Research Summary

I am interested in how the interactions between our genes, body, and experience during development shapes how we see and act on the world. How does our brain learn to detect meaningful patterns in the noisy and ambiguous signals that enter our eyes? And how does the developing system learn to use this information for efficient action and decision-making? How are these processes affected by atypical development, for example in case of early vision loss, and what is the scope for experience-dependent plasticity to overcome this at the neural and behavioural level?

To study these questions, I take a multi-method approach that combines psychophysics, eye-tracking, EEG, and state-of the art fMRI methods. To understand developmental mechanisms that drive changes vision and visually-guided action I fit these data with ideal observer and neural encoding models models. A challenging but fun aspect of this research is to come up with the best ways of obtaining precise and reliable measures from very young children.


My interest in developmental visual neuroscience was sparked during my MSc work with Annette Karmiloff-Smith on the knock-on effects that eye movement control in infancy may have on later perceptual and cognitive abilities. I then went on to do a PhD on the development of visual object processing in the dorsal and ventral stream, at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck, University of London, under supervision of Prof. Marty Sereno, Prof. Denis Mareschal, and Prof Mark Johnson. In my postdoc at the UCL Institute of Opthalmology, I studied the development of sensory and sensorimotor integration and their neural basis with Dr. Marko Nardini. In January 2016 I became a Research Fellow at the UCL Division of Language and Psychology, on an ESRC Future Leaders Fellowship. I am currently funded by a Moorfields Eye Charity Career Development Award, and head the Child Vision Lab, which is part-based at the Institute of Ophthalmology and PaLS Experimental Psychology, where we study the development of vision and vision for action in normal and atypical development.

Teaching Summary

I co-organise a 2nd year BSc Psychology module on Perception at the UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, and manage the fMRI safety and operator trainings at the Birkbeck/UCL Centre for Neuroimaging. In addition, I regularly give sessional lectures at various London Universities, including UCL Psychology and Language Sciences, UCL Institute of Child Health, Westminster, and Kingston University. Topics include development of vision, vision for action, MRI methods, developmental disorders, and motor systems in the brain.


Contact details

Room B02
26 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AP

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
11-43 Bath Street
London, UK

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