Professor Anya Hurlbert
Professor of Visual Neuroscience
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7638
- Fax: +44 (0) 191 208 5622
- Address: Institute of Neuroscience
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
My background is in physics, medicine and neuroscience, with my higher education and early career research experience taking place on both sides of the Atlantic. 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 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 Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University in 1991 as a lecturer.
Having moved from Physiological Sciences to Psychology, I became acting Head of the Division of Psychology, Brain and Behaviour (Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering) in 2003, and interim Head in 2007, helping to create the new School of Psychology in the Faculty of Medical Sciences. In 2004, I co-founded the Institute of Neuroscience with the late Professor Colin Ingram, and was co-Director of the Institute until 2014. In 2012, we established the Centre for Translational Systems Neuroscience with a Capital Award from the Wellcome Trust.
Roles and responsibilities
Professor of Visual Neuroscience
Director, Centre for Translational Systems Neuroscience
Scientist Trustee, National Gallery, London
Vice-chair, Board of Governors, Royal Grammar School
My research focuses on human visual perception: how and why do we see what we see? The typical human brain relies heavily on vision to make sense of the world, and I believe that understanding how people see will ultimately reveal much about how the brain works. My main interests are in how people perceive colours, how the colours people see interact with other attributes (e.g. shape, texture) in defining objects, how colours evoke emotions and names, and in the underlying neural processes from eye to brain. In my lab, we study these processes using psychophysical, computational and neuroimaging techniques in humans, across the age range, in normal and atypical development. We also apply our findings to real-world problems where colour provides solutions, and develop and apply calibrated colour imaging techniques.
Colour vision enables many important behavioural tasks; people use colour to recognise objects (is that my coffee cup?) and to assess material properties (is this banana ripe? is his skin jaundiced?), as well as to enhance basic visual processing and visual search. The neural processes that underlie colour perception begin in the retina and continue through multiple areas of cortex.
Colour constancy is a fundamental phenomenon which ensures that the object colours people see tend to stay the same despite changes in lighting spectra which cause changes in the light reflected from objects. Colour constancy enables people (and other animals who also possess colour constancy) to use colour as a reliable indicator of object identity or material properties. Yet despite being held up as a textbook example of a perceptual constancy, colour constancy is neither perfect nor perfectly understood. Research in my lab addresses several key questions about colour constancy: How good is colour constancy really? Has the human visual system optimised colour constancy for natural surfaces and lights? What are the underlying mechanisms in the eye and brain that achieve colour constancy? Does colour constancy in fact improve object recognition?
To measure human colour constancy better, we have developed a new method for discriminating changes in illumination, using tuneable LED light sources in real-world scenes. We demonstrated this lighting system and principles of colour perception at the National Gallery’s summer 2014 exhibition Making Colour.
To improve colour constancy in digital images, we also work towards making better colour correction algorithms, by tailoring these to the complexity of real world viewing conditions. For example, in a recent EPSRC-funded project, we analysed colour constancy from the joined perspectives of human and computer vision.
Colour perception in developmental disorders
Colour elicits strong emotional responses in children, and is often used as a learning tool in early education. There are reports that emotional responses to colour may be exaggerated in developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Williams Syndrome (WS). Although atypicalities in other sensory domains are well studied in both ASD and WS, the integrity of colour perception in these developmental disorders is less well understood. We are studying how colour perception develops in ASD and WS, and to what extent emotional responses to colour in both atypically and typically developing children are linked to the basic ability to discriminate between colours, and how colour discrimination is in turn linked to the development of colour naming.
The non-visual effects of spectral variations of light on mood and behaviour
Spectral variations in light give rise not only to the perception of colour, but also to non-visual effects, on human health, mood and general performance. These effects arise through the non-visual pathway originating in the melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells. We are using tuneable LED technology, combined with physiological and behavioural measurements, to explore the effects of varying light spectra on both visual perception and cognitive performance. Our aim is to develop a dynamic lighting system that responds to human behavioural needs. This project forms part of the HI-LED research programme (Human-centric Intelligent LED engines for the take up of SSL in Europe) funded by the EU FP7 programme (see http://www.hi-led.eu).
Other research interests and applications
Colour vision testing
Hyperspectral imaging of foodstuffs, for process control
Hyperspectral imaging of artwork
Development of spectrally tuneable illumination for vision research and museum lightingThe use of colour in contemporary and Old Master paintings
PSC3008: Physiology of the Nervous System (Physiological Sciences)
PSY3008: Art, Mind and Brain (Psychology)
PSY3097: Empirical Project (Psychology)
CMB3000: Research Project (Biomedical Sciences)
MMB8019: Sensory Systems Neuroscience (MRes in Neuroscience)
MMB8099: Project (MRes in Neuroscience)
- Aston S, Turner J, Bisson TLC, Jordan G, Hurlbert A. Better colour constancy or worse discrimination? Illumination discrimination in colour anomalous observers. In: 39th European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP). 2016, Barcelona, Spain: Sage Publications Ltd.
- Radonjic A, Pearce B, Aston S, Krieger A, Dubin H, Cottaris NP, Brainard DH, Hurlbert AC. Illumination discrimination in real and simulated scenes. Journal of Vision 2016, 16(11), 2.
- Cranwell M, Riby D, Le Couteur A, Pearce B, Hurlbert A. "Lush" or "slime"? Atypical colour naming in Williams Syndrome. In: 38th European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP). 2015, Liverpool, UK: Sage Publications Ltd.
- Hurlbert A, Pearce B, Aston S. All Illuminations are not Created Equal: The Limits of Colour Constancy. In: 38th European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP). 2015, Liverpool, UK: Sage Publications Ltd.
- Mackiewicz M, Finlayson GD, Hurlbert AC. Color Correction Using Root-Polynomial Regression. IEEE Transactions on Image Processing 2015, 24(5), 1460-1470.
- Brainard DH, Hurlbert AC. Colour Vision: Understanding #TheDress. Current Biology 2015, 25(13), R551-R554.
- Crichton SOJ, Sturm B, Hurlbert A. Moisture content estimation using hyperspectral imaging in the visible wavelength range. In: 2015 ASABE Annual International Meeting. 2015, New Orleans, LA, USA.
- Cranwell MB, Pearce B, Loveridge C, Hurlbert AC. Performance on the Farnsworth-Munsell 100-Hue Test is significantly related to non-verbal IQ. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 2015, 56(5), 3171-3178.
- Hurlbert AC, Owen KA. Biological, cultural, and developmental influences on color preference. In: Elliott, AJ; Fairchild, MD, ed. Handbook of Color Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. In Press.
- Pearce BM, Crichton SOJ, Mackiewicz M, Finlayson GD, Hurlbert AC. Chromatic illumination discrimination ability reveals that human colour constancy is optimised for blue daylight illuminations. PLoS One 2014, 9(2), e87989.
- Finlayson GC, Mackiewicz M, Hurlbert AC, Pearce BM, Crichton S. On calculating metamer sets for spectrally tuneable LED illuminators. Journal of the Optical Society of America A 2014, 31(7), 1577-1587.
- Vurro M, Ling Y, Hurlbert AC. Memory color of natural familiar objects: Effects of surface texture and 3-D shape. Journal of Vision 2013, 13(7), 20.
- Hurlbert AC. The Chromatic Mach Card. In: Shapiro, A; Todorovic, D, ed. Oxford Compendium of Visual Illusions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. In Press.
- Hurlbert AC. The Perceptual Quality of Color. In: Albertazzi, L, ed. Handbook of Experimental Phenomenology: Visual Perception of Shape, Space and Appearance. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, pp.369-394.
- Crichton SOJ, Pichat J, Mackiewicz M, Tian GY, Hurlbert AC. Skin chromaticity gamuts for illumination recovery. In: 6th European Conference on Colour in Graphics, Imaging and Vision (CGIV). 2012, Amsterdam, Netherlands: Society for Imaging Science and Technology.
- Mackiewicz M, Crichton SOJ, Newsome S, Gazerro R, Finlayson GD, Hurlbert AC. Spectrally tunable LED illuminator for vision research. In: 6th European Conference on Colour in Graphics, Imaging and Vision (CGIV). 2012, Amsterdam, Netherlands: Society for Imaging Science and Technology.
- Hurlbert A. The Networks of Thought. In: S. Aldworth, ed. Reassembling the Self: A Collection. London, UK: Cassland Books, 2012, pp.5-8.
- Hurlbert A, Ling Y. Understanding colour perception and preference. In: Best, J, ed. Colour Design: Theories and Applications. Oxford: Woodhead Publishing Limited, 2012, pp.129-157.
- Ling Y, Hurlbert A. Age-dependence of colour preference in the U.K. population. In: Biggam, C.P., Hough, C.A., Kay, C.J., Simmons, D.R, ed. New Directions in Colour Studies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011, pp.347-360.
- Franklin A, Bevis L, Ling Y, Hurlbert AC. Biological Components of Color Preference in Infancy. Developmental Science 2010, 13(2), 346-352.
- Ling Y, Hurlbert A. Role of color memory in successive color constancy. Journal of the Optical Society of America A: Optics and Image Science, and Vision 2008, 25(6), 1215-1226.
- Ruppertsberg AI, Bloj M, Hurlbert A. Sensitivity to luminance and chromaticity gradients in a complex scene. Journal of Vision 2008, 8(9), 3.
- Ling Y, Vurro M, Hurlbert A. Surface chromaticity distributions of natural objects under changing illumination. In: Society for Imaging Science and Technology: 4th European Conference on Colour in Graphics, Imaging, and Vision and 10th International Symposium on Multispectral Colour Science (CGIV/MCS). 2008, Terrassa, Spain: Society for Imaging Science and Technology.
- Ling Y, Hurlbert AC. A new model for color preference: Universality and individuality. In: Final Program and Proceedings - IS and T/SID Color Imaging Conference. 2007, Albuquerque, New Mexico: IS & T--the Society for Imaging Science and Technology.
- Hurlbert AC, Ling Y. Biological components of sex differences in color preference. Current Biology 2007, 17(16), R623-R625.
- Hurlbert A. Colour constancy. Current Biology 2007, 17(21), R906-R907.
- Ling Y, Hurlbert A. Colour-memory-dependent colour constancy: 2D vs 3D real surfaces. In: CGIV 2006 - 3rd European Conference on Colour in Graphics, Imaging, and Vision, Final Program and Proceedings. 2006, Leeds, UK: Society for Imaging Science and Technology.
- Ling Y, Hurlbert AC, Robinson L. Sex differences in colour preference. In: Pitchford, N.J., Biggam, C.P, ed. Progress in Colour Studies 2: Psychological Aspects. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006, pp.173-188.
- Aspell JE, Tanskanen T, Hurlbert AC. Neuromagnetic correlates of visual motion coherence. European Journal of Neuroscience 2005, 22(11), 2937-2945.
- Hurlbert A, Ridley M. Q & A - Anya Hurlbert and Matt Ridley. Current Biology 2005, 15(3), R78-R79.
- Ling Y, Hurlbert A. Color and size interactions in a real 3D object similarity task. Journal of Vision 2004, 4(9), 721-734.
- Hurlbert A, Wolf K. Color contrast: a contributory mechanism to color constancy. In: Heywood, CA; Milner, D; Blakemore, C, ed. The roots of visual awareness: a festschrift in honour of Alan Cowey. London: Elsevier, 2004, pp.147-160.
- Hurlbert AC. Colour Perception: Constancy and Contrast. In: Gregory, R.L, ed. The Oxford Companion to the Mind. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp.186-188.
- Hurlbert AC. Optical Illlusions. In: Brown,TG;Creath,K;Kogelnik,H;Kriss,MA;Schmit,J;Weber,MJ, ed. The Optics Encyclopedia. Oxford: Wiley-VCH, 2004.
- Hurlbert A. Colour vision: Primary visual cortex shows its influence. Current Biology 2003, 13(7), R270-R272.
- Wolf K, Hurlbert AC. The effect of global contrast distribution on colour appearance. In: Mollon, J.D., Pokorny, J., Knoblauch, K, ed. Normal and Defective Colour Vision. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp.239-247.
- Bloj MG, Hurlbert AC. An empirical study of the traditional Mach card effect. Perception 2002, 31(2), 233-246.
- Hurlbert AC. Colour in Context: Contrast and Constancy. In: Signals and Perception: SD329 Course Textbook. London, UK: Open University Press, 2002.
- Wolf K, Hurlbert A. Influences of chromatic texture on contrast induction. Journal of Vision 2002, 2(7), 137.
- Wolf K, Hurlbert AC. Kinetic colours: motion contrast does not reduce chromatic contrast. Perception 2002, 31(supplement), 70.
- Gigg J, Golledge HDR, McDonald JS, Hurlbert AC, Tovee MJ. Neurons in marmoset V1 encode spatial cone-contrast. Perception 2002, 31(supplement), 67.
- Hurlbert A, Wolf K. The contribution of local and global cone-contrasts to colour appearance: A Retinex-like model. In: Human Vision and Electronic Imaging VII. 2002, San Jose, California, USA: SPIE.
- Bloj M, Wolfe K, Hurlbert A. The perception of colour gradients. Journal of Vision 2002, 2(7), 154.
- Hurlbert A. Trading faces. Nature Neuroscience 2001, 4(1), 3-5.
- Bloj MG, Hurlbert AC. Getting depth from flat images. In: Perception: 23rd European Conference on Visual Perception. 2000, Groningen, Netherlands: Pion.
- Aspell JE, Bramwell DI, Hurlbert AC. Interactions between visual and auditory movement perception in a direction discrimination task. In: European Conference on Visual Perception - ECVP 2000. 2000, Groningen, Netherlands: Pion Ltd.
- Hurlbert A. Visual perception: Learning to see through noise. Current Biology 2000, 10(6), R231-R233.
- Hurlbert A. Colour vision: Is colour constancy real?. Current Biology 1999, 9(15), R558-R561.
- Bloj MG, Kersten D, Hurlbert AC. Perception of three-dimensional shape influences colour perception through mutual illumination. Nature 1999, 402(6764), 877-879.
- Hurlbert AC. Computational models of colour constancy. In: Walsh V, Kulikowski J (eds). Perceptual Constancy: Why things look as they do. Cambridge University Press 1998, 283-321.
- Hurlbert A.C., Bramwell D.I., Heywood C. and Cowey A. Discrimination of cone contrast changes as evidence for colour constancy in cerebral achromatopsia. Exp. Brain Res 1998, 123, 136-144.
- Hurlbert AC. Illusions and reality-checking on the small screen. Perception 1998, 27, 633-636.
- Moeller P. and Hurlbert A.C. Interactions between colour and motion in image segmentation. Current Biology 1997, 7(2), 105-111.
- Moeller P. and Hurlbert A.C. Motion edges and regions guide image segmentation by colour. Proc. Roy. Soc. London B 1997, 264, 1571-1577.
- Hurlbert AC. Primer: Colour Vision. Current Biology 1997, 7(7), R400-R402.
- Hurlbert AC. Colour vision: Putting it in context. Current Biology 1996, 6(11), 1381-1384.
- Bramwell D.I. and Hurlbert A.C. Measurements of colour constancy using a forced choice matching technique. Perception 1996, 25, 229-241.
- Moeller P. and Hurlbert A.C. Psychophysical evidence for fast, region-based segmentation processes in motion and colour. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci 1996, 93, 7421-7426.
- A. C. Hurlbert,A. M. Derrington. Neural Coding - How Many Neurons Does It Take to See. Current Biology 1993, 3(8), 510-512.