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Vivian C. Paulun

I am a postdoctoral fellow working with Nancy Kanwisher and Josh Tenenbaum at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.
Before joining MIT, I was working in Roland Fleming’s lab at the University of Gießen.
I am studying how humans perceive and reason about the physical properties of objects or materials, such as softness or elasticity. My research combines psychophysics, computational modelling, computer simulations/graphics, 3D mesh analysis and neuroimaging to investigate the following questions:

  • What is the neural and computational basis of (dynamic) material perception?
  • How do we gain a meaningful and predictive understanding of our visual world at a glance?
  • How does the brain represent the physics of our surrounding world in such rich and efficient manner?
  • And how do we use such information to guide our actions?
Deriving functional properties from visual input is a computational challenge the visual system solves with surprising ease. Although the two-dimensional projection of the world on the retina is highly ambiguous, we gain a rich and meaningful percept of the world around us just by looking at things. We can identify objects and the materials they are made of; we know how they would feel to the touch and anticipate how they would respond to an applied force. Seeing the functional properties of objects is a central ability in order to successfully interact with our environment.

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