VS298: Unsolved Problems in Vision

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One of the goals of vision science is to understand the nature of perception and its neural substrates. There are now many well established techniques and paradigms in both psychophysics and neuroscience to address problems in vision. However, knowing how to frame these questions for investigation is not necessarily obvious. Nervous systems present us with stunning complexity, and the purpose of perception itself is deeply mysterious. The goal of this seminar course is to step back and ask, what are the important problems that remain unsolved in vision research, and how should these be approached empirically? The course will consist of alternating weeks of discussion and guest lectures by vision scientists who will frame their views of the core unsolved problems. Interdisciplinary groups of students will devise a practical research plan to address an unsolved problem of their choice.

Instructors: Stan Klein, Jerry Feldman, Bruno Olshausen, and Karl Zipser
GSI: Dan Coates

Enrollment information:

VS 298 (section 2), 2 units
CCN: 66478

Meeting time and place: Tuesday 6-8, 560 Evans (Redwood Center conference room)

Email list:

  • Seminar mailing list vs298_unsolved_problems_in_vision@lists.berkeley.edu subscribe
  • Lecture series mailing list subscribe

Weekly schedule:

Date Topic/Reading
Sept. 2 Introduction
Sept. 9 Methodology in vision science (Stan Klein)
  • Double-judgment psychophysics: problems and solutions pdf Read pp 1560-1567 This will give a glimpse into some of the issues involved with the relationship between detecting and identifying an object. The second part of the paper is more complicated.
  • Measuring, estimating, and understanding the psychometric function: A commentary pdf I (Stan Klein) was an editor of a special issue of "Perception & Psychophyics" and I wrote the summary article not only commenting on a number of the articles, but also trying to clarify some misunderstood aspects in the field.
  • Psychophysics : A Practical Introduction site This is the text by Kingdom and Prins that I've used when teaching psychophysics methods. I suggest reading Chapters 2 & 3. Some of the dichotomies in Chapter 2 are directly relevant to a number of unsolved problems in vision. Some might even be insoluble.

Marcus background discussion

Sept. 16 Evening seminar, focus on student projects: form groups and discuss proposal topics grant_format
Sept. 19

(Friday) 11:00 a.m., 5101 Tolman

Gary Marcus lecture: Computational diversity and the mesoscale organization of the neocortex video

Sept. 23 Marcus discussion

Feldman background discussion

  • Feldman, J. (2008). From molecule to metaphor: A neural theory of language. MIT press. (look at Chapters 1, 2, 9, and 26 before class) pdf
  • Feldman, J. (2013). The neural binding problem (s). Cognitive neurodynamics, 7(1), 1-11. pdf
  • Feldman, J. & Narayanan, S. (2014). Affordances, Actionability, and Simulation. Affordances Workshop, Robotics Science and Systems 2014, Berkeley, CA pdf
  • Feldman, J. (2010). Ecological expected utility and the mythical neural code. Cognitive neurodynamics, 4(1), 25-35. pdf
Wed. Oct. 1, 4 p.m., 489 Minor Hall
Feldman lecture: The neural binding problem(s) and related mysteries

Oct. 7 Feldman discussion

Malik background discussion

  • Malik papers...
Oct. 14
Jitendra Malik lecture

Oct. 21 Malik discussion

Nakayama background discussion

  • Nakayama, K. (1999). Mid-level vision. In R. A. Wilson & F. C. Keil (Eds.), The MIT encylopedia of the cognitive sciences Cambridge: MIT Press pdf
  • Nakayama, K. (2010) "Vision going social." The science of social vision. Adams, R.B. Jr., Ambady, N., Nakayama, K. & Shimojo, S. (Eds) Oxford University Press pdf
  • Nakayama, K. and Martini, P. (2011) Situating Visual Search. Vision Research, 51, 1526-1537. pdf

(All Nakayama pubs available here)

Oct. 28
Ken Nakayama lecture: The scientist’s choice: solving, explaining, discovering . . . .

Nov. 3 (Monday)

12:30 p.m. 489 Minor Hall

Shinsuke Shimojo lecture: Contour Interaction: as far from the muddling crowd?

Nov. 4 Nakayama and Shimojo discussion

Wandell background discussion

  • To appear: Computational modeling of responses in human visual cortex. BA Wandell, J Winawer, KN Kay.

In Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference (Edited by Thompson and Friston.) pdf

(Friday) Nov. 14
Brian Wandell lecture

Nov. 18 Wandell discussion

Gallant background discussion

  • Gallant papers...
Nov. 25
Jack Gallant lecture

Evening seminar: Gallant Discussion
Koch background discussion

  • Tononi, G., & Koch, C. (2014). Consciousness: Here, There but Not Everywhere. arXiv preprint arXiv:1405.7089. pdf
  • Scientific American article
  • Scientific American article
Dec. 2, 4-6 p.m., 125 Li Ka Shing
Christof Koch lecture: Unsolved Problems in Vision: Consciousness.

Evening seminar: Koch Discussion

Additional Materials

  • recent special issue of CurrOpinNeuro journal
  • Olshausen BA Olshausen (2013) Perception as an Inference Problem. pdf
  • Olshausen BA (2012) 20 years of learning about vision: Questions answered, questions unanswered, and questions not yet asked. In: 20 Years of Computational Neuroscience (Symposium of the CNS 2010 annual meeting) pdf
  • Kitaoka, A (2014) Color-dependent motion illusions in stationary images and their phenomenal dimorphism. Perception advance online publication pdf
  • O'Regan, J. K., & Noë, A. (2001). A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. Behavioral and brain sciences, 24(05), 939-973.pdf
  • Bruno Olshausen lecture (1 July 2014) 20 Years of Learning About Vision: Questions Answered, Questions Unanswered, and Questions Not Yet Asked video