Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Sam Schwarzkopf hosts CBR Seminar Event as iCalendar

03 February 2017

12 - 1pm

Venue: CBR Seminar Room 501-505

Location: Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Host: Dr Sam Schwarzkopf

Contact info: Professor Steven Dakin

Contact email:


About the speaker 

Dr Sam Schwarzkopf did his undergraduate studies (BSc Neuroscience) at Cardiff University and subsequently did his PhD in the lab of Frank Sengpiel, followed by a brief post-doctoral project at the University of Birmingham, where he shifted his focus to human neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience.

In 2008 he moved to University College in London, to join the lab of Geraint Rees at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (ICN) as a post-doctoral research fellow.

In 2012, Dr Schwarzkopf was awarded generous funding in the form of an ERC Starting Grant to support his ongoing research. This enabled him to join the department of Cognitive Perceptual & Brain Sciences (CPB) and the Birkbeck-UCL Centre for Neuroimaging (BUCNI) to set up an independent lab there.



The overarching goal of Dr Schwarzkopf's research is to better understand why people perceive the world in the way that they do. To achieve this purpose, his team has developed functional MRI methods to estimate the spatial tuning properties (population receptive fields) of sensory cortical regions.

This team has demonstrated that the spatial selectivity of voxels in the visual cortex correlates with individual biases in size perception. This led Sam to derive a simple encoding model of how the human brain determines the size of visual objects. In further studies, the group used similar models to investigate the visual cortical representation of ambiguous stimuli. These methods are a promising approach for better understanding the neural signature of subjective perception and for identifying the mechanisms through which a percept arises in the human brain.

Moreover, the team has quantified the spatial tuning properties of visual cortex in congenital deafness, autism spectrum disorders, and schizophrenia. This revealed dissociations between these conditions: while autism and congenital deafness may be characterized by differences in attentional deployment or basic response properties, schizophrenia is associated with specific differences in inhibitory contextual processing.

Finally, Dr Schwarzkopf applied the same techniques to study spatial anisotropies in face processing and extended their use to the encoding of auditory sound frequency. This demonstrates the utility of these methods for domains beyond the basic retinotopic architecture.