Professor Anya Hurlbert
Professor of Visual Neuroscience

  • Email:
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7638
  • Fax: +44 (0) 191 208 5622
  • Address: Institute of Neuroscience
    Framlington Place
    University of Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE2 4HH


I graduated from Princeton University in 1980 with a BA in Physics, followed in 1981 by a Part III Diploma in Theoretical Physics and in 1982 by an MA in Physiology from Cambridge University, where I held a Marshall Scholarship. In 1989, I received a PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from MIT, where I studied with Tomaso Poggio and Peter Schiller, and in 1990, an MD from Harvard Medical School. I then held a Vision Research Fellowship at Oxford University in Andrew Parker’s lab, before joining Physiological Sciences in the Medical School at Newcastle University in 1991 as a lecturer. I’m now Professor of Visual Neuroscience and Director of the Institute of Neuroscience.

Research Interests

My research focuses on human visual perception: how and why do we see what we see? Vision is a window into the human brain, and I believe that understanding how we see will ultimately tell us how much of the brain works. My main interests are in how we perceive colours of objects, how the colours we see interact with other attributes (shape, texture, motion) in object recognition, and the underlying neural processes from eye to brain.

Colour constancy is a fundamental phenomenon which ensures that the object colours we see tend to stay the same despite changes in lighting conditions which cause changes in the light reflected from objects. My research asks: How good is colour constancy in the natural world? What are the underlying mechanisms in the eye and brain that achieve colour constancy? Does colour constancy in fact improve object recognition?

I am also interested in how colour interacts with cognition and emotion, both in typically developing populations as well as in autistic spectrum disorder and ageing. These interests focus on colour naming, colour memory and colour preference, as well as more basic phenomena such as colour contrast.

Other Expertise

Other main research interests: neuroimaging, colour imaging and image processing, and the cross-fertilisation between art and science.

Research techniques include: psychophysics, computational modelling, cellular neurophysiology, human brain imaging (fMRI and MEG) and neuropsychology.

Current Work

·        Colour and texture interactions in object recognition and memory colour

·        Colour constancy of natural objects

·        Colour perception and affective responses in autism

·        The effects of illumination spectrum on perception and behaviour

·        Hyperspectral imaging

·        Colour naming in colour blindness

·        Modelling properties of colour-selective neurons

·        Colour perception and reproduction in natural images

·        The perception of chromatic gradients and mutual reflections

·        Basic mechanisms underlying chromatic contrast and chromatic assimilation

·        The role of specular highlights in colour and shape perception