Visual Perception and the Brain

The purpose of the course is to consider how what we see is generated by the visual system.

Most concepts of vision propose, explicitly or implicitly, that successful visual behavior depends on recovering the sources of stimulus features either directly or by a process of statistical inference. However, given the inability of the visual system to access the physical properties of the world, these conceptual frameworks cannot account for the behavioral success of biological vision. The alternative is that the visual system automatically links simple, recurrent stimulus patterns with reproductive success, without ever recovering real world properties.

This strategy provides a different way of studying the relationship between the objective world and subjective experience, and offers a way of understanding the operating principles of visual circuitry without invoking feature detection, image representation in the brain, and/or probabilistic inference.


  • Created an 8-week MOOC on the anatomy and physiology of the human visual system.
  • Part of a series of Duke courses included in Duke’s MOOC Specialization Perception, Action, and the Brain, an online credentialing series designed especially for graduate students in the brain sciences and those working in virtual reality or gaming.

Media & Publications:



  • Neurobiology

Project Use:


Launch Date:

  • November 2014

View the project