Welcome to the Cognitive and Neural Organization Lab!

Our broad aim is to characterize representational spaces of the mind and how they are mapped onto the surface of the brain. We focus primarily on high-level visual representation: how do we organize our knowledge of objects, actions, and scenes?

Our approach is to leverage the spatial structure in neural responses to gain insight into functional organization of the mind and brain. The spatial topography and connectivity of neural regions are driven by powerful biological organizing principles that broadly reflect the computational goals of the system. As such, we aim to develop models of what regions do in the context of where they fall and why they come to be organized that way.

The techniques we use include functional neuroimaging and behavioral methods in human participants. We supplement these empirical techniques with formal computational methods to relate representational spaces defined at a cognitive level with the spatial topography of neural responses.

contact:
talia_konkle@harvard.edu | cv | google scholar
William James Hall 784
33 Kirkland St
Cambridge, MA
(617) 495-3886

Some Current Projects:
What are the key properties of objects that drive the systematic neural responses along the ventral stream?

Visual objects can be characterized by a variety of features, from low-level to high-level properties. This raises a challenge for interpretting neural measures, where differences between conditions can be driven by different causes in different places. Here we use a condition-rich design to explore which object properties fit best where, using a predictive feature modeling approach.

Object gist features capture the structure of neural responses to objects.
Konkle & Caramazza (2014) Vision Sciences Society Poster.
Do big and small objects have common shape features?

Apples look like other apples, oranges look like other oranges, but do small objects look like other small objects? Because there are many kinds of small objects (e.g., cups, keys), there may be no reliable perceptual features that distinguish them from big objects (e.g., cars, tables).

In a series of studies we have found that there are common shape features that reflect broad conceptual distinctions like real-world size and animacy. In two ongoing lines of work, we're exploring (i) how sensitivity to these features develops through childhood, and (ii) the extent to which these mid-level features drive neural responses along the visual processing hierarchy. Broadly, this line of work explores the idea that early sensitivity to basic visual features might facilitate downstream object perception, recognition, and categorization processes.

Mid-level perceptual features distinguish objects of different real-world sizes. Long, Konkle, & Alvarez (2015) JEP:General.

Real-world object size is automatically activated by mid-level shape features. Long, Konkle, & Alvarez (2015) Vision Sciences Society.

Broad category membership guides visual attention in young children. Long, Moher, Konkle, Alvarez, Carey (2015). Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development.

Mid-level features are sufficient to drive the animacy and object size organization of the ventral stream. Long & Konkle (2016). Talk presented at the Society for Neuroscience.
Some Key Findings:
What are the organizing dimensions of occipitotemporal cortex?

Occipitotemporal cortex has strong object-centered responses. However, there is no widely accepted model of the coding dimensions of objects, nor how this high-dimensional domain is mapped onto the cortical sheet. How do you parameterize objects?

We have found that the real-world size of objects is a fundamental dimension that has a large-scale organization across the cortical surface, and shows an interleaved organization with the dimension of animacy. This work demonstrates object-responsive cortex is not a heterogeneous bank of features but has a systematic organization at a macro-scale.

This work also highlights that understanding what a region computes will be informed by considering it's role at multiple spatial scales of organization.

A Real-World Size Organization of Object Responses in Occipito-Temporal Cortex. Konkle & Oliva. Neuron, 2012.

Tripartite Organization of the Ventral Stream by Animacy and Object Size. Konkle & Caramazza. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013.

The large-scale organization of object-responsive cortex is reflected in resting-state network architecture. Konkle & Caramazza. Cerebral Cortex, 2016.
What are the links between neural organization and visual behavior?

The human visual system is built to efficiently extract and encode the structure of the natural world, transforming information from early sensory formats into increasingly abstract representations that support our behavioral capacities.

In a series of studies, we probed the links between neural responses and a variety of visual behavioral measures, including visual search, visual masking, and visual working memory. This line of work points to the overarching result that there is a common representational structure across all of high-level visual cortex that underlies our ability to process object categories.

Processing multiple visual objects is limited by overlap in neural channels. Cohen, Konkle, Nakayama, Alvarez. PNAS, 2014.

Visual awareness is constrained by the representational architecture of the visual system. Cohen, Konkle, Nakayama, Alvarez. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 2015

Visual search for object categories is predicted by the representational architecture of high-level visual cortex. Cohen, Nakayama, Alvarez, & Konkle. Journal of Neurophysiology, 2016.
How is the real-world size of objects part of our internal objects representations?

One insight into the nature of object representation is to consider that objects are physical entities in a 3-dimensional world. This geometry places places important constraints on how people experience and interact with objects of different sizes.

In a series of behavioral studies, we found that the real-world size of objects is a basic component of object representation. Just as objects have a canonical perspective, we showed they also have a canonical visual size (proportional to the log of their real-world size). Further, size-knowledge is automatically activated when an object is recognized.

Selected Publications:
Canonical visual size for real-world objects.
Konkle & Oliva. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 2011.

A Familiar Size Stroop Effect: Real-world size is an automatic property of object representation.
Konkle & Oliva. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 2012.
How much can we remember about what we see?

Another way we investigate the nature of high-level visual representations by understanding how and what we store about them in memory.

We discovered that people are capable of remembering thousands of visually-presented objects and scenes with much more detail than previously believed. This remarkable capacity for retaining highly-detailed memory traces relies on our existing conceptual knowledge: the more we know about the different kinds of objects, the less they interfere in memory.

The thesis emerging from this research is that one cannot fully understand memory capacity or memory processes without also determining the nature of representations over which they operate.

Selected Publications:
Visual long-term memory has a massive capacity for object details.
Brady, Konkle, Alvarez, & Oliva. PNAS 2008.

Conceptual knowledge supports perceptual detail in visual long-term memory.
Konkle, Brady, Alvarez, & Oliva. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2010.

Scene memory is more detailed than you think: the role of scene categories in visual long-term memory.
Konkle, Brady, Alvarez, & Oliva. Psychological Science, 2010.

Compression in visual short-term memory: using statistical regularities to form more efficient memory representations.
Brady, Konkle, & Alvarez. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2009.


Review:
A review of visual memory capacity: Beyond individual items and toward structured representations.
Brady, Konkle, & Alvarez. Journal of Vision, 2011.
current members:
Talia Konkle
Principal Investigator
Emilie Josephs
Graduate Student
Leyla Tarhan
Graduate Student
Chen-Ping Yu
Post-doc
Xiuye Chen
Data Scientist / Post-Doc
Nastaran Arfaei
Research Assistant
collaborators:
Bria Long
Graduate Student
Michael Cohen
Post-doc
Caterina Magri
Graduate Student
Neural organization in high-level vision
Visual search for object categories is predicted by the representational architecture of high-level visual cortex.
Cohen, M., Nakayama, K., Alvarez, G. A. & Konkle, T. (in press).
Journal of Neurophysiology.
The large-scale organization of object-responsive cortex is reflected in resting-state network architecture.
Konkle, T., & Caramazza, A. (2016).
Cerebral Cortex.
Visual awareness is constrained by the representational architecture of the visual system.
Cohen, M., Konkle, T., Nakayama, K., & Alvarez, G. A. (2015).
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 27 (11), 2240-52.
Parametric Coding of the Size and Clutter of Natural Scenes in the Human Brain.
Park, S. J., Konkle, T. & Oliva, A. (2015).
Cerebral Cortex, 25 (7), 1792-1805.
Processing multiple visual objects is limited by overlap in neural channels.
Cohen, M., Konkle, T., Rhee, J., Nakayama, K., & Alvarez, G. A. (2014).
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Tripartite Organization of the Ventral Stream by Animacy and Object Size.
Konkle, T., & Caramazza, A. (2013).
Journal of Neuroscience, 33 (25), 10235-42.
A real-world size organization of object responses in occipito-temporal cortex.
Konkle. T., & Oliva, A. (2012).
Neuron,. 74(6), 1114-24.
Object Representation: Real-World Size
A Familiar Size Stroop Effect in the Absence of Basic-Level Recognition.
Long, G., Alvarez, G. A. & Konkle, T. (submitted).
Mid-level perceptual features distinguish objects of different real-world sizes.
Long, G., Konkle, T., Cohen, M., & Alvarez, G. A. (2016).
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 145(1), 95-109. (git hub)
A Familiar Size Stroop Effect: Real-world size is an automatic property of object representation.
Konkle, T., & Oliva, A. (2012).
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 38, 561-9.
Canonical visual size for real-world objects.
Konkle, T. & Oliva, A. (2011).
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 37(1):23-37.
Normative representation of objects: Evidence for an ecological bias in perception and memory.
Konkle, T., & Oliva, A. (2007).
In D. S. McNamara & J. G. Trafton (Eds.), Proceedings of the 29th Annual Cognitive Science Society, (pp. 407-413), Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Representing, Perceiving and Remembering the Shape of Visual Space.
Oliva, A., Park, S., & Konkle, T. (2010).
Computational Vision in Neural and Machine Systems, Cambridge University Press, edited by Laurence R Harris and Michael Jenkin.
Visual memory
Long-term memory has the same limit on fidelity as working memory.
Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., Gill, J., Oliva, A., & Alvarez, G. A. (2013).
Psychological Science, 24 (6), 981-990.
Real-world objects are not represented as bound units: Independent forgetting of different object details from visual memory.
Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., Alvarez, G. A., & Oliva, A. (2013).
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(3), 791-808.
A review of visual memory capacity: Beyond individual items and toward structured representations.
Brady, T. F., Konkle, T. & Alvarez, G. A. (2011).
Journal of Vision, 11(5):4, 1-4.
Scene memory is more detailed than you think: the role of scene categories in visual long-term memory.
Konkle, T., Brady, T. F., Alvarez, G. A., & Oliva, A. (2010).
Psychological Science, 21(11), 1551-1556.
Conceptual distinctiveness supports detailed visual long-term memory.
Konkle, T., Brady, T. F., Alvarez, G. A., & Oliva, A. (2010).
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139(3), 558-578.
Compression in visual short-term memory: using statistical regularities to form more efficient memory representations.
Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., & Alvarez, G. A. (2009).
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138(4), 487-502.
Detecting changes in real-world objects: The relationship between visual long-term memory and change blindness.
Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., Oliva, A., & Alvarez, G. (2009).
Communicative and Integrative Biology, 2:1, 1-3.
Visual long-term memory has a massive storage capacity for object details.
Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., Alvarez, G. A. & Oliva, A. (2008).
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 105(38), 14325-9.
Visual and Tactile Motion
Sensitive period for a vision-dominated response in human MT/MST.
Bedny, M., Konkle, T., Pelphrey, K., Saxe, R., & Pascual-Leone, A. (2010).
Current Biology, 139(3), 20(21),1900-6.
What can crossmodal aftereffects reveal about neural representation and dynamics?
Konkle, T. & Moore, C. I. (2009).
Communicative and Integrative Biology, 2(6), 479-481.
Motion Aftereffects Transfer Between Touch and Vision.
Konkle, T., Wang, Q., Hayward, V., & Moore, C. I. (2009).
Current Biology, 19, 745-750.
Tactile Rivalry Demonstrated with an Ambiguous Apparent-Motion Quartet.
Carter, O. L., Konkle, T., Wang, Q., Hayward, V., & Moore, C. I. (2008).
Current Biology, 18(14), 1050-4.
Early Research
Searching in Dynamic Displays: Effects of configural predictability and spatio-temporal continuity.
Alvarez, G. A., Konkle, T., & Oliva, A. (2007).
Journal of Vision, (pp. 407-413)7(14):12, 1-12.
Bilateral Pathways Do Not Predict Mirror Movements: A Case Report.
Verstynen, T. D., Spencer, R., Stinear, C. M., Konkle, T., Diedrichsen, J., Byblow, W. D., Ivry, R. B. (2007).
Neuropsychologia, 45(4), 844-852.
Two types of TMS-induced Movement Variability After Stimulation of the Primary Motor Cortex.
Verstynen, T. D., Konkle, T., & Ivry, R. B. (2006).
Journal of Neurophysiology, 96, 1018-1029.
download stimulus sets:
Big and Small Objects

200 big objects, 200 small objects (.zip)


Konkle & Oliva, 2012, Neuron.
Animacy x Size

60 small animals, 60 big animals,
60 small objects, 60 big objects (.zip)


Konkle & Caramazza, 2013, Journal of Neuroscience.
"Massive Memory" Scene Categories

128 Scene categories with 1-64 exemplars (.zip)

Konkle, Brady, Alvarez, & Oliva, 2012, Psychological Science
Object Size Stroop

Congruent and incongruent displays from two experiments (.zip)


Konkle & Oliva, 2012, JEP:HPP.
Object quartets: State x Exemplar and State x Color
100 sets of 2 states x 2 exemplars (.zip)
100 sets of 2 states x 2 colors (.zip)

Brady, Konkle, Oliva, & Alvarez, 2012, JEP:General.
Current Open Positions:
GRADUATE STUDENT

A graduate student position is available starting in Fall of 2017. We are seeking candidates who have had some previous experience in a research lab and familiarity with coding and data analysis. To apply, please submit an application through the Department of Psychology website and be sure to indicate my name in your application.
We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.