Vision and Brain

How we perceive the world

Book cover with a view of clouds and a landscape

About this book

''I loved this book. A highly readable and accessible introduction to vision, it is distinctive in its emphasis on the computational principles underlying our visual perception.''

From Dr J Read's book review in Perception journal, 2013. Download review (PDF, 97KB)

In this accessible and engaging introduction to modern vision science, Jim Stone uses visual illusions to explore how the brain sees the world.

Understanding vision, Stone argues, is not simply a question of knowing which neurons respond to particular visual features, but also requires a computational theory of vision.

Stone draws together results from David Marr's computational framework, Barlow's efficient coding hypothesis, Bayesian inference, Shannon's information theory, and signal processing to construct a coherent account of vision that explains not only how the brain is fooled by particular visual illusions, but also why any biological or computer vision system should be fooled by these illusions.

This short text includes chapters on

  • the eye and its evolution

  • how and why visual neurons from different species encode the retinal image in the same way

  • how information theory explains colour aftereffects

  • how different visual cues provide depth information

  • how the imperfect visual information received by the eye and brain can be rescued by Bayesian inference

  • how different brain regions process visual information

  • the bizarre perceptual consequences that result from damage to these brain regions.

The tutorial style emphasises key conceptual insights, rather than mathematical details, making the book accessible to the the non-scientist, and suitable for undergraduate or postgraduate study.

James V Stone is a Reader in the Psychology Department of the University of Sheffield. He is co-author (with John P. Frisby) of the widely used text Seeing: the Computational Approach to Biological Vision (second edition, MIT Press, 2010), and author of Independent Component Analysis: A tutorial introduction (MIT Press, 2004) and Bayes' Rule (2012).

Download Chapter 1 (PDF, 831KB)


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The party trick

1. Vision: an overview

How we see: the brain as a detective
Illusions: how the brain fails?
Illusory lines: triangles and pandas
Recognizing objects: cubes, rings, and pianos
Perceiving three-dimensional shape: shading, craters, and faces
Shades of gray and grays of shade
Color and shade
Brains, vision, and bird flight

2. Eyes

The evolution of eyes
Darwin's cold shudder
The simplest eyes
The simple eye
The pinhole camera
The human eye
An organ of imperfections
Not blinded by the light
The retina
What the eye does not tell the brain

3. The neuronal machinery of vision

Neurons and wineglasses
Exponential decay
Signal boosters
The cost of neuronal computation
The illusory vision of the horseshoe crab
Receptive fields and Mexican hats
The illusory vision of the Mexican hat
Receptive field size and spatial scale
Spatial frequency and Fourier analysis
Why have on-center and off-center cells?
Push-pull amplifiers in the brain?
Why does opponency yield linearity?
Evidence for push-pull processes
Logan's need to know
Receptive fields: what are they good for?
From Mexican hats to bells
The efficient coding hypothesis

4. The visual brain

From retina to visual cortex
From retina to LGN
Magno, parvo, and konio layers in the LGNs
From LGN to striate cortex
Simple cells
Temporal receptive fields
Maps in primary visual cortex
Pictures in the head?
The packing problem
Secondary visual cortex
Color cortex
Motion cortex
Losing retinotopy
Inferotemporal cortex
A mill and a grand book

5. Depth: the rogue dimension

Space, the first frontier
Painting pictures on the retina
Pictorial cues to depth
Motion: what is it good for?
Now you see it...
Staying upright
Motion parallax and optic flow
The motion aftereffect
A neuronal model of the motion aftereffect
Motion blur
Structure from motion
How much structure from how much motion?
Stereo vision
The correspondence problem
3-D glasses
Shape from texture
Shape from shading

6. The perfect guessing machine

Perfectly ambiguous images
How probable is that image?
How probable is that shape?
Generalising Bayes' rule
Bayes' rule increases accuracy, on average
A prior for face convexity?
Noisy images
Evidence versus experience
Bayesian wars
Brains and Bayesian inference
Marr and Bayes

7. The Color of Information

Color and light
Light, cones, and rods
There's a hole in the sky where the light gets in
Information theory
Big message, small wires
Navigating information theory, bit by bit
Bits, binary digits, and entropy
Photoreceptors as information channels
Bits and bins in the visual system
What a waste
Sum-difference recoding
Recoding and efficient coding
Ganglion cells as information channels
Principal component analysis
More pushing and pulling?
Color aftereffects
Are cone tuning curves optimal?

8. A hole in the head

Gedankenexperiment: not carving nature at her joints
Carving nature at her joints
Strategies for object and face recognition
Neuropsychology of object and face recognition

9. Brains, computation, and cupcakes

David Marr (Homo computatrix)

Further reading