Susana Martínez Conde is the directory of the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience, a Scholar at the Empire Innovator Program, and she is the Professor of Ophthalmology and Physiology/Pharmacology at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center.
The research at her lab focuses on understanding the neural bases of our visual experience. How can the electrical activity of a neuron, or a neuronal population, convey the colour or brightness of an object? How can we determine the signal from the noise in a train of electrical impulses within a neuron? What type of neural code do neurons use to communicate information to each other? How are neural impulses grouped to represent the different features of a visual scene? To address these questions we use a combination of techniques, including fMRI, electrophysiological recordings from single neurons, psychophysical measurements, and computational models of visual function.
Susana co-authored the International Bestseller (Sleight of Minds) that explains how illusions and magic work in your brain! The Spanish translation “Los engaños de la mente” won the Prize “Premio Prismas Casa de las Ciencias”.
All our life, every object we see, every person we know and every incident we experience, are derived from brain processes, and not necessarily the result of an event in the real world. The same neural machinery that interprets the sensory inputs also creates our thoughts, imaginations and dreams; thus the world we experience and the world we imagine have the same physical bases in the brain. Just as physicists study the most minute subatomic particles and the largest galactic conglomerates to understand the universe, neuroscientists must examine the cerebral processes underlying perception to understand our experience of the universe. Visual illusions are one of our most important tools to understand how the brain builds our experience of reality. Likewise, the principles developed by magicians and illusionists throughout history can be very useful to manipulate attention and awareness in the laboratory. Here I will discuss how the visual and cognitive illusions developed by artists and magicians can be applied to the study of the neural bases of consciousness and perception.