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Perceiving Material Qualities – Brain Mechanisms and Dynamics

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Our physical world consists of animals, plants and nonliving objects with which we need to interact appropriately in order to survive: we have to decide what is predator and what is pray, which fruit is rotten and which is ripe, whether the surface we walk on is slippery or safe. In order to master such important biological decision the human visual system has evolved abilities to sense the relevant qualities of the environment, which include motion, color and material properties. In the past fifty years, research has made enormous progress in understanding the biological mechanisms of motion, depth and color perception. By comparison, the perception of material qualities - though likely as important for survival as navigating or recognizing objects - has received little attention, and it is not well understood how the brain recognizes materials. The objective of this project is two-fold: to investigate what information the visual system extracts from the inherently ambiguous retinal signal, and how this information is processed by the brain to yield vivid impressions of material qualities. Specific research questions that will be addresses are: how humans perceive optic and dynamic properties of material from a series of images, how multi-sensory properties of materials are learned and what are the neural dynamics in material perception? The proposed work will use behavioral measures, computational theory, and neuroscience to arrive at an integrated view of how we perceive materials, what information we use in this process, and how they are implemented in the human brain.

The successful candidate will join the research group lead by Dr. Katja Doerschner and will have access to state-of-the-art psychophysics, eyetracking and neuroimaging facilities at the Department of Psychology at the Justus- Liebig-University Giessen, Germany.

Applicants should have a Master’s degree or equivalent in psychology, neuroscience, biology, computer science, physics, mathematics or related areas. Prior experience in functional imaging, visual psychophysics, and/or programming would be an advantage.

Your Doctoral Programme at the International Giessen Graduate Centre for the Life Sciences consists of a 3-year graduate curriculum combined with an experimental project leading to a dissertation. Seminars and courses are conducted in English.

The project is financed by a 5-year Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Grant (Sofja Kovalevskaja Award http://www.humboldt-foundation.de/web/kovalevskaja-award.html). Supervision and lab space are available.

Contact detail

How to apply:
Please submit your application using our online application system before 06 March , 2015:

Please direct any inquiries to office@ggl.uni-giessen.de
Send application to
International Giessen Graduate Centre for the Life Sciences
Justus Liebig University Giessen
Leihgesterner Weg 52
35392 Gießen

Please submit your application using our online application system before 06 March , 2015:

Job profile

Working hours
Can be Full-Time or Part-Time
Contract duration
Type of job
PhD Project
Work experience
job experience is not required
Germany (Hessen)
Working place
35392 Giessen (Lahn)
Area of expertise
Biology & Life Sciences