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Isabel Gauthier

David K. Wilson Chair of Psychology
Vice Chair Department of Psychology
Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences

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 but many behavioral and neuroimaging studies from the Gauthier lab have suggested that the specialization we see in behavior and the brain for faces results to a large extent from our extensive experience with faces. In recent work the cortical thickness of the fusiform face area was found to predict both face and object recognition abilities and we are exploring these relations at an even finer scale, in deep vs. superficial cortical layers that may reflect effects of expertise that occur relatively early or later in life. The Gauthier lab is also involved in measuring and testing hypotheses about individual differences in high-level visual abilities, including domain-specific experience as well as domain-general ability that may be able to predict the potential to learn across a number of visual domains. The lab is involved in collaborative activities funded by the NSF to study how variation in general visual abilities and specific visual experiences affect our visual behavior, using a combination of behavioral experiments, ultra-high-field brain imaging, structural equation modeling and item response analysis.

Lab Website

Representative Publications

Top 3 cited (relatively) recent work:

Richler, J.J., Wilmer, J.B., Gauthier, I. (2017). General object recognition is specific: evidence from novel and familiar objects. Cognition, 166: 42-55.

Gauthier, I. & Tarr, M.J. (2016). Visual object recognition: do we (finally) know more now then we did? Annual Review in Vision Science., 2, 377-396.

Mcgugin, R.W., Gatenby, C.J., Gore, J.C., Gauthier, I. (2012) High-resolution imaging of expertise reveals reliable object selectivity in the fusiform face area related to perceptual performance, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (42), 17063-17068 

Full list at Google Scholar



2024 Davida Teller Award, Vision Sciences Society

2024 Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award, Vanderbilt Graduate School

2021  Mid-career award from the Psychonomic Society

2015  SEC Professor of the year

2015  Vanderbilt Professor of the year

2014   Chancellor Award for Research, Vanderbilt University

2012   Graduate mentoring award, College of Arts and Science, Vanderbilt University

2008   Troland research award from the National Academy of Sciences

2003   APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology

2002   Young Investigator Award, Cognitive Neuroscience Society