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Learning and Plasticity in Space Perception, Imagery and Action

John Rieser
Professor of Psychology
219 Hobbs Building
615-322-8347 (office)

My research is about dynamic space perception, imagery, and action. Many of the experiments are about the perception and control of locomotion when walking without vision, some are about the perception and control of object manipulation without vision. A main phenomenon is that when people walk or manipulate objects with their eyes closed they keep up to date on their changing positions relative to the remembered surroundings and objects. Our research is focused on how people connect the afferent and efferent input from motor activity with images and memory representations of the objects and surroundings that were visually perceived at an earlier time. We use various methods. For example, to study learning we devised methods to induce experimental changes in the coupling of action and imagery. To learn about the organization of space perception and action, we test to find out how widely those induced changes generalize to perceptually novel situations and to novel motor actions. Many of our studies involve a human comparative approach. For example, to learn about normative development we test children who may range from one to fifteen years of age. And to learn about plasticity and the role that visual experience may play in nonvisual development, we test people who may have lost some or all of their vision at different ages in life.