Conference looks to further understanding of how brain works

The human brain is what makes the human species exceptional and understanding how it works is perhaps the defining problem of 21st-century science. On Wednesday, some 20 leading researchers from Belgium, Israel, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada will converge at York University to tackle a central part of this problem at the James Elderannual Configural Processing Consortium (CPC).

A principal function of the brain is to integrate and organize the cornucopia of signals received from the environment and the body, says Professor James Elder (right), one of the CPC organizers. These signals, picked up by the body’s sensory organs, are transformed by the brain into the coherent global percepts that people experience and use to make good decisions and take effective actions.

“Although it occurs largely without our awareness, this process of perceptual organization is key to our existence,” says Elder, of the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science in the Lassonde School of Engineering and the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health. “This is painfully evident in the clinical consequences of a failure in this integration process, as can be seen in autism, schizophrenia, agnosias and spatial neglect.”

Configurality research involves the interdisciplinary study of how perceptual judgments depend on the spatial pattern of the visual features of a stimulus. Behavioural and brain imaging experiments with children, adolescents and adults, as well as clinical populations, reveal key properties of underlying brain processes and provide important constraints for theories of perceptual organization.

The eighth annual meeting of the CPC will take place Nov. 13, starting at 9am, at 306 Lumbers Building, Keele campus.

The conference is sponsored by the Centre for Vision Research, the Faculty of Health, the Department of Psychology, the Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation, and the York University NSERC CREATE Training Program in Vision Science & Applications.

For more information and to view the speaker abstracts, visit the Configural Processing Consortium website.