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Sensation & Perception

Sensation is an area of study that is based on facts and theories from a wide array of sources such as anatomy and physiology, physics and optics, cognitive neuroscience and psychology, and biochemistry and genetics. The study of sensation and perception is the oldest sub-discipline within Psychology and the visual system is one of the best worked out neurological systems in the body. Nonetheless, Sensation remains a dynamic and growing area of interdisciplinary study.

Sensation research within the Department of Psychology encompasses this breadth and focus with faculty that concentrate on the sensory, perceptual, and cognitive aspects of the field. 


Click to expand each of the below faculty members' research focus, program affiliation, and lab information in the Sensation and Perception research area.

Drew Abney

  • Drew Abney Drew Abney focuses on how behaviors and social interactions early in development impact developmental trajectories throughout infancy and into toddlerhood. Studies conducted in the lab use various techniques: from conducting controlled laboratory experiments to free-flowing toy play sessions to collecting daylong multimodal (e.g., vocalizations, body movements, etc.) behavioral data. In the lab, we are motivated to apply existing techniques from applied computational social science and dynamical systems theory and also develop new computational and analytic methods to understand the dynamics of development during infancy and early childhood.   

James M. Brown

  • James M. Brown studies visual perception, perceptual organization, and attention. Research in the Visual Perception Laboratory is aimed at trying to understand how we organize, perceive, and attend to our visual world. Our general research approach could be described as a combination of cognitive psychophysics and visual neuroscience. We use psychophysical methods to explore the relationship between the physical stimulus and what is perceived (i.e., cognitive psychophysics) while at the same time seeking to understand these perceptual experiences based on current knowledge about the neural machinery of the visual brain (i.e., visual neuroscience). An example of this approach includes recent studies of figure-ground perception from the perspective of activity within and between the dorsal and ventral visual streams. Other examples of topics of study include illusions, objects, and scenes. Recent collaborative research has expanded this approach to eye movement behavior.

Brett Clementz

  • Brett Clementz has two general goals. The first is to understand how accurate sensory processing is maintained within the context of changing environmental circumstances. The second is to understand neurobiological distinctions between different subgroups of brain diseases called the psychoses (defined clinically by the presence of hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive disturbance), which have demonstrated, for the majority of cases to have a substantial genetic diathesis. For Dr. Clementz, the first goal, which often involves the study of the healthy brain, informs the second goal of understanding deviations in brain functions associated with manifestation of psychosis in order to facilitate improved diagnosis and treatment of severe psychiatric disorders. The methodological core of Dr. Clementz’ research involves use of simple and complex behavioral paradigms combined with use of neuroimaging technologies including electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He uses sophisticated approaches to analyzing data collected with these technologies and is known for developing innovative analysis techniques. He and Dr. McDowell co-direct the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.

Billy Hammond

  • Billy Hammond studies all aspects of the human visual system. This extends from basic studies of the cornea, lens and retina to applied studies of visual processing within the brain. A primary focus of his laboratory has been the investigation of how lifestyle, primarily dietary, influences both the development of degenerative disease and the normal function of the central nervous system. Billy Hammond’s laboratory also studies basic and physiological optics and their relation to visual function.  For example, in a recent series of studies he has measured how tinted intraocular implants and contact lenses (e.g., both fixed and photochromic) influence glare discomfort and disability, color perception, and visual range. 

Dean Sabatinelli

  • Dean Sabatinelli is interested in defining the brain mechanisms involved in the discrimination of emotional stimuli, and specifically how the recruited cortical and subcortical structures are orchestrated in real time. In addition to basic science, a major goal is to understand how these dynamic mechanisms contribute to disorders of emotion.

Affiliated Research Faculty

Lisa Renzi-Hammond

  • Lisa Renzi-Hammond is adjunct faculty in the department and studies the ways in which visual function can serve as a biomarker for central nervous system health and function across the lifespan. She is faculty in the College of Public Health and retains strong ties to the UGA Psychology Department through both teaching activities and research collaboration.

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