Margaret Livingstone
Margaret Livingstone, PhD
Takeda Professor of Neurobiology

We have long been interested in how tuning properties of individual neurons can be clustered at a gross level in the brain. We began by looking at the parallel processing of different kinds of visual information, going back and forth between human psychophysics, anatomical interconnectivity of modules in the primate brain, and single unit receptive-field properties. We discovered an interdigitating and highly specific connectivity between functionally distinct regions in V1 and V2 differentially concerned with processing form, color, motion and depth (Livingstone and Hubel, 1984, 1987).

Doris Tsao and Winrich Freiwald used functional MRI to localize face processing regions in the primate brain, and then used functional MRI to target single-unit recording to these functional modules. We found an astonishingly high proportion of cells in these fMRI-identified regions to highly face selective (Tsao et al, 2006).

We then went on to characterize the tuning properties of this functional module, finding that face cells tend to be tuned to extremes of face parameters, such as intereye distance, eye size, etc Freiwald et al 2009). This finding suggests why caricatures are so effective in evoking identity.

Currently we are again combining functional MRI and single unit recording to explore the effects of early intensive training on symbol recognition.

A side interest in the lab is to use what we know about vision to understand some of the discoveries artists have made about how we see. The separate processing of color and form information has a parallel in artists' idea that color and luminance play very different roles in art (Livingstone, Vision and Art, Abrams Press, 2002). The elusive quality of the Mona Lisa's smile can be explained by the fact that her smile is almost entirely in low spatial frequencies, and so is seen best by your peripheral vision (Science, 290, 1299). These three images show her face filtered to show selectively lowest (left) low (middle) and high (right) spatial frequencies.

So when you look at her eyes or the background, you see a smile like the one on the left, or in the middle, and you think she is smiling. But when you look directly at her mouth, it looks more like the panel on the right, and her smile seems to vanish. The fact that the degree of her smile varies so much with gaze angle makes her expression dynamic, and the fact that her smile vanishes when you look directly at it, makes it seem elusive. So when you look at her eyes or the background, you see a smile like the one on the left, or in the middle, and you think she is smiling. But when you look directly at her mouth, it looks more like the panel on the right, and her smile seems to vanish. The fact that the degree of her smile varies so much with gaze angle makes her expression dynamic, and the fact that her smile vanishes when you look directly at it, makes it seem elusive.

We have been looking at depth perception in artists, because poor depth perception might be an asset in a profession where the goal is to flatten a 3-D scene onto a canvas. We found evidence that a surprisingly large number of talented artists, including Rembrandt, might be stereoblind (Livingstone and Conway, 2004). In the etching below you can see that Rembrandt portrayed himself as strabismic (with misaligned eyes). If this were the case in only one or two of his self portraits, or if he also showed other subjects with misaligned eyes, we wouldn’t think anything of it, but Rembrandt most of the time portrays himself, but not other subjects, as wall-eyed, and the outward deviating eye is reversed in his paintings compared with his etchings (think about it!).

 

"A side interest in the lab is to use what we know about vision to understand some of the discoveries artists have made about how we see. Tuning of face cells to a cartoon face space. (a) Three example dimensions of a 19-dimensional cartoon space. Each row shows example values for one parameter, with all other parameters fixed at their mean. (b) Tuning curves of two example cells to each of the 19 feature dimensions. Maximal, minimal, and mean values from shift predictor are shown in gray. Stars mark significant modulation."

Publications View
Sulcal Depth in the Medial Ventral Temporal Cortex Predicts the Location of a Place-Selective Region in Macaques, Children, and Adults.
Authors: Authors: Natu VS, Arcaro MJ, Barnett MA, Gomez J, Livingstone M, Grill-Spector K, Weiner KS.
Cereb Cortex
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The neurons that mistook a hat for a face.
Authors: Authors: Arcaro MJ, Ponce C, Livingstone M.
Elife
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Body map proto-organization in newborn macaques.
Authors: Authors: Arcaro MJ, Schade PF, Livingstone MS.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
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The neurovascular response is attenuated by focused ultrasound-mediated disruption of the blood-brain barrier.
Authors: Authors: Todd N, Zhang Y, Livingstone M, Borsook D, McDannold N.
Neuroimage
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Universal Mechanisms and the Development of the Face Network: What You See Is What You Get.
Authors: Authors: Arcaro MJ, Schade PF, Livingstone MS.
Annu Rev Vis Sci
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Evolving Images for Visual Neurons Using a Deep Generative Network Reveals Coding Principles and Neuronal Preferences.
Authors: Authors: Ponce CR, Xiao W, Schade PF, Hartmann TS, Kreiman G, Livingstone MS.
Cell
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Modulation of brain function by targeted delivery of GABA through the disrupted blood-brain barrier.
Authors: Authors: Todd N, Zhang Y, Power C, Becerra L, Borsook D, Livingstone M, McDannold N.
Neuroimage
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Cortex Is Cortex: Ubiquitous Principles Drive Face-Domain Development.
Authors: Authors: Livingstone MS, Arcaro MJ, Schade PF.
Trends Cogn Sci
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Focused ultrasound induced opening of the blood-brain barrier disrupts inter-hemispheric resting state functional connectivity in the rat brain.
Authors: Authors: Todd N, Zhang Y, Arcaro M, Becerra L, Borsook D, Livingstone M, McDannold N.
Neuroimage
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A dual-mode hemispherical sparse array for 3D passive acoustic mapping and skull localization within a clinical MRI guided focused ultrasound device.
Authors: Authors: Crake C, Brinker ST, Coviello CM, Livingstone MS, McDannold NJ.
Phys Med Biol
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