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Leslie Ungerleider, PhD
Mechanisms for Perceptual Decision-Making in the Human Brain
Chief of the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016
Findings from the activity of individual neurons suggest that a comparison of the outputs of different pools of selectively tuned lower-level sensory neurons may be a general mechanism by which higher-level regions of the cerebral cortex compute perceptual decisions. For example, when monkeys must decide whether a noisy field of dots is moving upward or downward, a decision can be made by computing the difference in responses between lower-level neurons sensitive to upward motion and those sensitive to downward motion. Dr. Ungerleider will present evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging that even for high-level object categories, the comparison of the outputs of different pools of neurons could be a general mechanism by which the human brain computes perceptual decisions. She will also argue that the posterior dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in humans has general decision-making functions, independent of stimulus and response modalities, thereby providing a flexible link between sensory evidence, decision, and action.
About the Speaker:
Leslie Ungerleider, PhD, received her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and her doctorate in experimental psychology from New York University. During her postdoctoral training with Karl Pribram at Stanford University, she began her work on higher-order perceptual mechanisms in the cortex of primates. She moved to the National Institute of Mental Health in 1975, joining Mortimer Mishkin in the Laboratory of Neuropsychology. Their neurobehavioral work inspired their theory of “two cortical visual systems,” one specialized for object recognition and another for visuospatial perception.
In 1995, Dr. Ungerleider became chief of the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at the National Institute of Mental Health, a position she still holds.
Dr. Ungerleider is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2001, she received the Women in Neuroscience Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2008 she became an NIH Distinguished Investigator.