The speed of visual processing of complex objects in the human brain. Sensitivity to image properties, the influence of aging, optical factors and individual differences.

Bieniek, Magdalena Maria (2014) The speed of visual processing of complex objects in the human brain. Sensitivity to image properties, the influence of aging, optical factors and individual differences. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Visual processing of complex objects is a feat that the brain accomplishes with remarkable speed – generally in the order of a few hundred milliseconds. Our knowledge with regards to what visual information the brain uses to categorise objects, and how early the first object-sensitive responses occur in the brain, remains fragmented. It seems that neuronal processing speed slows down with age due to a variety of physiological changes occurring in the aging brain, including myelin degeneration, a decrease in the selectivity of neuronal responses and a reduced efficiency of cortical networks. There are also considerable individual differences in age-related alterations of processing speed, the origins of which remain unclear. Neural processing speed in humans can be studied using electroencephalogram (EEG), which records the activity of neurons contained in Event-Related-Potentials (ERPs) with millisecond precision. Research presented in this thesis had several goals. First, it aimed to measure the sensitivity of object-related ERPs to visual information contained in the Fourier phase and amplitude spectra of images. The second goal was to measure age-related changes in ERP visual processing speed and to find out if their individual variability is due to individual differences in optical factors, such as senile miosis (reduction in pupil size with age), which affects retinal illuminance. The final aim was to quantify the onsets of ERP sensitivity to objects (in particular faces) in the human brain. To answer these questions, parametric experimental designs, novel approaches to EEG data pre-processing and analyses on a single-subject and group basis, robust statistics and large samples of subjects were employed. The results show that object-related ERPs are highly sensitive to phase spectrum and minimally to amplitude spectrum. Furthermore, when age-related changes in the whole shape of ERP waveform between 0-500 ms were considered, a 1 ms/year delay in visual processing speed has been revealed. This delay could not be explained by individual variability in pupil size or retinal illuminance. In addition, a new benchmark for the onset of ERP sensitivity to faces has been found at ~90 ms post-stimulus in a sample of 120 subjects age 18-81. The onsets did not change with age and aging started to affect object-related ERP activity ~125-130 ms after stimulus presentation. Taken together, this thesis presents novel findings with regards to the speed of visual processing in the human brain and outlines a range of robust methods for application in ERP vision research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: visual processing, object recognition, face recognition, EEG, event related potentials, ERPs, aging, optical factors, individual differences, psychophysics, phase spectrum, amplitude spectrum, brain, cognitive neuroscience
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Supervisor's Name: Rousselet, Dr Guillaume
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Miss Magdalena Maria Bieniek
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5161
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2014 10:55
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2014 10:56

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