George Mather
Research Interests

Movement perception

Animals move around to find mates, shelter, and food, and to avoid being eaten. Mobility brings with it the need to sense movement either of oneself or others, whether to aid safe navigation through the world, or to detect other mobile animals such as approaching predators. Most animals sense movement using their eyes. Special neurons in the visual system of the brain detect movement in the image cast into the eyes, and infer the character and cause of the movement. My research investigates how these neurons work, using experiments on human observers as well as computer simulations. Demonstrations of some of the moving images I and others have used to study human motion perception can be found on the Motion Demos section of the web site.

Psychology of visual art

Artworks are among the most complex and diverse of human achievements. They can be studied from many different perspectives, including their cultural context, the personal and social history of the artist, technical development, and so on. The perspective I use as a vision scientist is based on experimental psychology and neuroscience. Visual art is a product of the brain. It depends in particular on the immense mass of neurons the make up the visual system of the brain, the parts which respond to light entering the eye. Activity in these neurons mediates all of our conscious visual experiences, including those we have when viewing art. The visual system is arguably the most studied neural system in the brain. This scientific knowledge can be applied to help us to understand and appreciate certain aspects of visual art, supplementing rather than supplanting the insights of other, more traditional disciplinary perspectives.

For example, representational paintings are almost always flat, yet we perceive depth in them. The depth is conveyed by cues which the visual system normally picks up from real three-dimensional scenes (converging or intersecting lines, diminishing size and so on). Artists were the first to discover that they can simulate some of these cues on a flat surface, and need not worry about the contradictory information from other cues (stereo, for example) because they can be discounted by the visual system. For instance subtle lightness gradation, or chiaroscuro, is used in art to model shape, and toning down of contrast, or sfumato, can convey distance.

Funding

ESRC Research Grant (2013-2016)
The Influence Of The Human Form On Visual Judgements Of Movement
£286,945

Wellcome Trust Research Grant (2008-2011)
Computational and psychophysical studies of polarity effects in human visual motion processing
£126,654

EPSRC Network Grant (2004-2005)
Network: Art and Science of Motion Perception
£15,259.

Wellcome Trust Research Grant (2000-2003)
Integrating models of motion analysis in the human visual system.
£116,520

EPSRC Research Grant (1997-2000)
The use of image blur as a depth cue in human vision.
£137,017

EPSRC Research Grant (1993-1996)
Psychophysical studies of interactions between first-order and second-order motion stimuli.
£98,565

MRC Project Grant (1991-1993)
Temporal properties of low-level motion processes in human vision.
£46,155

SERC Research Grant (1990-1993)
Perceptual studies of high level motion processing in the human visual system.
£58,477

SERC Research Grant (1988-1991)
Psychophysical studies of the aperture problem in motion processing.
£47,707

MRC Project Grant (1985-1988)
Spatial and temporal primitives involved in early processing of visual motion.
£12,756