College of Science Distinguished Speaker - Vision Science

michael webster distinguished speaker

Adaptation and Visual Experience

Dr. Michael Webster
Professor and Director of the Institute for Integrative Neuroscience
University of Nevada, Reno

Like all sensory systems, the visual system continuously recalibrates its sensitivity to match the current visual environment. These adaptation processes adjust not only to simple stimulus features like the average light level, but also for such abstract attributes as the average human face we are exposed to. Thus they profoundly impact every visual experience. Because adaptation adjusts the mind to fit the world, observers adapted to the same environment should tend toward similar percepts even if their visual systems are very different. Conversely, observers exposed to different environments should instead perceive the world differently even if they are physiologically the same. To the extent that we understand the mechanisms of adaptation, it is possible to model them to process images to instead “adapt” the world to fit the observer. Adapting images could allow observers to perceive and act more effectively in novel environments, and provides a method for understanding the benefits and consequences of very long-term adaptation states that are difficult to study by instead adapting the observer.

Speaker Bio:
Michael Webster is a Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno where he serves a Director of the Institute for Integrative Neuroscience (an NIH COBRE grant) and as co-Director of both the BS and PhD programs in Neuroscience. He began studying visual perception as an undergraduate at UCSD and then as a doctoral student at UC Berkeley, receiving his PhD in 1988. From there he spent six years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge before moving to Nevada in 1994. His research focuses on color and form perception and how vision is shaped by adaptation to both natural and unnatural visual environments.
A dessert reception will immediately follow.

Melanie Green

Event Snapshot
When and Where
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
1:00 PM-1:50 PM
Thomas Gosnell Hall

Open to the Public

Interpreter Requested


art and design
interdisciplinary studies