Overview of my PhD Research Program
Perceptual organization entails processes that integrate basic stimulus elements into a Gestalt (translated by some as "the whole"). Ongoing research continues to uncover the principles by which low-level stimulus features are grouped together, and how the foreground becomes perceptually segregated from the background, which are essential processes underlying higher order perception.
Late adulthood is associated with not only changes the anatomy of the eye, but is also correlated with changes to the brain that processes visual information. Over my PhD, I explored the effects of aging on figure-ground (FG) perceptual organization, and grappled with the question: how does the aging brain impact individuals' ability to segregate figures from the surrounding backgrounds?
Over a number of experiments, we found an age difference in FG perception consistent with reduced cortical inhibition observed in aging. Our work also indicated a neural signature in the electrophysiological evoked response associated with behavioural performance in the FG task. Overall, the findings suggest that younger adults can resolve higher competition between perceptual interpretations of our stimuli by altering processing mechanisms underlying FG organization. Older adults, who appear to have more trouble resolving resolving the high competition, do not seem to be altering those same processing mechanisms.
The age differences in perceptual organization found in our work are consistent with other findings that high ambiguity stimuli pose particular challenges to the aging visual system. Such findings are crucial in the effort to characterize the challenges faced by senior citizens. Exploring these types of questions is critical as we work towards develop solutions that improve functioning and longevity in this growing portion of the population.
My full PhD dissertation can be downloaded below:
I am deeply passionate about psychology & neuroscience.
My first research experience was as a summer research assistant at Baycrest, where I assisted in running a Memory Intervention Program for older adults with memory deficits. This experience sparked my passion for scientific study of the mind & brain, which I pursued as an undergraduate research assistant in an incredible developmental cognitive neuroscience lab studying math cognition run by Dr. Daniel Ansari. This led me to pursue a PhD in Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour where I studied the effects of aging on Perceptual Organization in the Vision and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. I learned a great deal from my supervisors Dr. Allison Sekuler and Dr. Patrick Bennett through the process of conducting, presenting, and publishing our work, in which we demonstrated that Figure-Ground Perception changes in late adulthood. Specifically we showed that the aging visual system has difficulty resolving high competition involved in resolving ambiguous stimuli.
I then returned to Baycrest as a Rotman Research Institute postdoctoral fellow. I worked with Brian Levine and Angie Troyer to bring two validated cognitive rehabilitation therapies (Memory and Aging Program and Goal Management Training®) online, and to test the efficacy of these online platforms. This was a great experience because it exposed me to both research and business aspects of two different projects, and I learned a great deal.
I am now working on protects at the intersection of science, business, and technology innovation for geriatrics as a Project Manager at Baycrest's Kunin-Lunenfeld Centre for Applied Research & Evaluation (KL-Care). I have been providing project management and research support to industry-researcher partnerships testing real-time neuro-feedback applications for rehab and using AI for early detection of Alzheimer's disease, and researcher-clinician partnerships developing new clinical tools.
My academic CV can be downloaded here: Academic CV (updated December 2019)
My PhD dissertation/thesis can be downloaded here: Lass PhD
My publications can be seen at my Google Scholar profile
VSS Poster 2015
Most important part of the lab
VSS poster 2013
VSS Poster 2012
Posing with the WISE team
VSS poster 2012
Giving another scientist the rundown of our findings