Isabel Gauthier, Ph.D.


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Faculty Appointments
Professor of Psychology David K. Wilson Chair of PsychologyProfessor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences
Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, ConnecticutM.S., Yale University, New Haven, ConnecticutB.A., University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada
Office Address
308 Wilson Hall
301 Wilson Hall
Nashville, KY
Research Description
Isabel Gauthier, Ph.D., is a cognitive neuroscientist currently holding the position of David K. Wilson Professor of Psychology and head of the Object Perception Lab. She acquired her PhD at Yale University. In 2000, with the support of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, she founded the Perceptual Expertise Network (PEN),\which now comprises over ten labs based across North America; in 2006 PEN became part of the NSF-funded Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (TDLC).

Gauthier studies visual object recognition, with particular emphasis on the plasticity of recognition mechanisms and their neural substrate. One issue that is of particular interest to her is how the visual system organizes itself into what appears to be category-specific modules. For instance, face recognition is often given as an example of a highly specialized module that may function independently from general object recognition mechanisms. However, faces are among the most visually similar objects that we need to recognize individually and most of us acquire a large amount of expertise in doing so throughout our lives. A diversity of techniques (e.g., expertise training with computer-generated objects, brain-lesion studies, functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments) can be used in order to explore factors that may contribute to the tuning of general mechanisms for the particular problem of face recognition. Current research continues to explore the role of level of categorization (e.g., recognizing an objects a BIRD vs. as a ROBIN) and of expertise in object recognition. Other projects include looking at the role of spatial frequencies in various visual areas involved in object recognition and measuring interactions between the visual and semantic systems.
Research Keywords
Visual object recognition
Grelotti DJ, Klin AJ, Gauthier I, Skudlarski P, Cohen DJ, Gore JC, Volkmar FR, Schultz RT. FMRI activation of the fusiform gyrus and amygdala to cartoon characters but not to faces in a boy with autism. Neuropsychologia. 2005; 43(3): 373-85. PMID: 15707614, PII: S0028-3932(04)00157-5, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2004.06.015, ISSN: 0028-3932.

Palmeri TJ, Wong AC, Gauthier I. Computational approaches to the development of perceptual expertise. Trends Cogn. Sci. (Regul. Ed.). 2004 Aug; 8(8): 378-86. PMID: 15335465, PII: S1364661304001603, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2004.06.001, ISSN: 1364-6613.

Palmeri TJ, Gauthier I. Visual object understanding. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 2004 Apr; 5(4): 291-303. PMID: 15034554, PII: nrn1364, DOI: 10.1038/nrn1364, ISSN: 1471-003X.

Curby KM, Hayward G, Gauthier I. Laterality effects in the recognition of depth-rotated novel objects. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2004 Mar; 4(1): 100-11. PMID: 15259892, ISSN: 1530-7026.

James TW, Gauthier I. Brain areas engaged during visual judgments by involuntary access to novel semantic information. Vision Res. 2004 Mar; 44(5): 429-39. PMID: 14680768, PII: S0042698903006497, ISSN: 0042-6989.

Gauthier I, Behrmann M, Tarr MJ. Are Greebles like faces? Using the neuropsychological exception to test the rule. Neuropsychologia. 2004; 42(14): 1961-70. PMID: 15381026, PII: S0028393204001174, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2004.04.025, ISSN: 0028-3932.

James TW, Gauthier I. Auditory and action semantic features activate sensory-specific perceptual brain regions. Curr. Biol. 2003 Oct 10/14/2003; 13(20): 1792-6. PMID: 14561404, PII: S0960982203007231, ISSN: 0960-9822.

Goffaux V, Gauthier I, Rossion B. Spatial scale contribution to early visual differences between face and object processing. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2003 May; 16(3): 416-24. PMID: 12706221, PII: S0926641003000569, ISSN: 0926-6410.

Gauthier I, Curran T, Curby KM, Collins D. Perceptual interference supports a non-modular account of face processing. Nat. Neurosci. 2003 Apr; 6(4): 428-32. PMID: 12627167, PII: nn1029, DOI: 10.1038/nn1029, ISSN: 1097-6256.

Rossion B, Curran T, Gauthier I. A defense of the subordinate-level expertise account for the N170 component. Cognition. 2002 Sep; 85(2): 189-96. PMID: 12127699, PII: S0010027702001014, ISSN: 0010-0277.

Rossion B, Gauthier I, Goffaux V, Tarr MJ, Crommelinck M. Expertise training with novel objects leads to left-lateralized facelike electrophysiological responses. Psychol Sci. 2002 May; 13(3): 250-7. PMID: 12009046, ISSN: 0956-7976.

Gauthier I, Palmeri TJ. Visual neurons: categorization-based selectivity. Curr. Biol. 2002 Apr 4/16/2002; 12(8): R282-4. PMID: 11967168, PII: S0960982202008011, ISSN: 0960-9822.

Gauthier I, Tarr MJ. Unraveling mechanisms for expert object recognition: bridging brain activity and behavior. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2002 Apr; 28(2): 431-46. PMID: 11999864, ISSN: 0096-1523.

Grelotti DJ, Gauthier I, Schultz RT. Social interest and the development of cortical face specialization: what autism teaches us about face processing. Dev Psychobiol. 2002 Apr; 40(3): 213-25. PMID: 11891634, PII: 10.1002/dev.10028, ISSN: 0012-1630.

Gauthier I, Hayward WG, Tarr MJ, Anderson AW, Skudlarski P, Gore JC. BOLD activity during mental rotation and viewpoint-dependent object recognition. Neuron. 2002 Mar 3/28/2002; 34(1): 161-71. PMID: 11931750, PII: S0896627302006220, ISSN: 0896-6273.

Gauthier I, Nelson CA. The development of face expertise. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 2001 Apr; 11(2): 219-24. PMID: 11301243, PII: S0959-4388(00)00200-2, ISSN: 0959-4388.

Gauthier I. Visual priming: the ups and downs of familiarity. Curr. Biol. 2000 Oct 10/19/2000; 10(20): R753-6. PMID: 11069101, PII: S0960-9822(00)00738-7, ISSN: 0960-9822.

Tarr MJ, Gauthier I. FFA: a flexible fusiform area for subordinate-level visual processing automatized by expertise. Nat. Neurosci. 2000 Aug; 3(8): 764-9. PMID: 10903568, DOI: 10.1038/77666, ISSN: 1097-6256.

Gauthier I, Tarr MJ, Moylan J, Skudlarski P, Gore JC, Anderson AW. The fusiform "face area" is part of a network that processes faces at the individual level. J Cogn Neurosci. 2000 May; 12(3): 495-504. PMID: 10931774, ISSN: 0898-929X.

Schultz RT, Gauthier I, Klin A, Fulbright RK, Anderson AW, Volkmar F, Skudlarski P, Lacadie C, Cohen DJ, Gore JC. Abnormal ventral temporal cortical activity during face discrimination among individuals with autism and Asperger syndrome. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry. 2000 Apr; 57(4): 331-40. PMID: 10768694, ISSN: 0003-990X.

Gauthier I, Skudlarski P, Gore JC, Anderson AW. Expertise for cars and birds recruits brain areas involved in face recognition. Nat. Neurosci. 2000 Feb; 3(2): 191-7. PMID: 10649576, DOI: 10.1038/72140, ISSN: 1097-6256.

Rossion B, Gauthier I, Tarr MJ, Despland P, Bruyer R, Linotte S, Crommelinck M. The N170 occipito-temporal component is delayed and enhanced to inverted faces but not to inverted objects: an electrophysiological account of face-specific processes in the human brain. Neuroreport. 2000 Jan 1/17/2000; 11(1): 69-74. PMID: 10683832, ISSN: 0959-4965.

Rossion B, Gauthier I, Tarr MJ, Despland P, Bruyer R, Linotte S and Crommelinck M. The N170 occipito-temporal component is delayed and enhanced to inverted faces but not to inverted objects: An electrophysiological account of face-specific processes in the human brain. 2000.

Gauthier I, Skudlarski P, Gore JC and Anderson AW. Expertise for cars and birds recruits brain areas involved in face recognition. 2000.

Gauthier I. What constrains the organization of the ventral temporal cortex?. Trends Cogn. Sci. (Regul. Ed.). 2000 Jan; 4(1): 1-2. PMID: 10637614, PII: S1364-6613(99)01416-3, ISSN: 1879-307X.

Gauthier I, Behrmann M, Tarr MJ. Can face recognition really be dissociated from object recognition?. J Cogn Neurosci. 1999 Jul; 11(4): 349-70. PMID: 10471845, ISSN: 0898-929X.

Gauthier I, Tarr MJ, Anderson AW, Skudlarski P, Gore JC. Activation of the middle fusiform 'face area' increases with expertise in recognizing novel objects. Nat. Neurosci. 1999 Jun; 2(6): 568-73. PMID: 10448223, DOI: 10.1038/9224, ISSN: 1097-6256.

Gauthier I, Tarr MJ, Anderson AW, Skudlarski P and Gore JC. Activation of the middle fusiform "face area" increases with expertise in recognizing novel objects. 1999.

Tarr MJ, Williams P, Hayward WG, Gauthier I. Three-dimensional object recognition is viewpoint dependent. Nat. Neurosci. 1998 Aug; 1(4): 275-7. PMID: 10195159, DOI: 10.1038/1089, ISSN: 1097-6256.

Gauthier I, Williams P, Tarr MJ, Tanaka J. Training 'greeble' experts: a framework for studying expert object recognition processes. Vision Res. 1998 Aug; 38(15-16): 2401-28. PMID: 9798007, PII: S0042-6989(97)00442-2, ISSN: 0042-6989.

Tarr MJ, Gauthier I. Do viewpoint-dependent mechanisms generalize across members of a class?. Cognition. 1998 Jul; 67(1-2): 73-110. PMID: 9735537, PII: S0010-0277(98)00023-7, ISSN: 0010-0277.

Gauthier I, Anderson AW, Tarr MJ, Skudlarski P, Gore JC. Levels of categorization in visual recognition studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Curr. Biol. 1997 Sep 9/1/1997; 7(9): 645-51. PMID: 9285718, PII: S0960-9822(06)00291-0, ISSN: 0960-9822.

Gauthier I, Tarr MJ. Becoming a "Greeble" expert: exploring mechanisms for face recognition. Vision Res. 1997 Jun; 37(12): 1673-82. PMID: 9231232, PII: S0042698996002866, ISSN: 0042-6989.

Tanaka JW and Gauthier I. Expertise in object and face recognition. 1997.

Gauthier I, Tarr MJ. Orientation priming of novel shapes in the context of viewpoint-dependent recognition. Perception. 1997; 26(1): 51-73. PMID: 9196690, ISSN: 0301-0066.