Research

I am a postdoc at the Carnegie Mellon Neuroscience Institute, advised by Dr. Leila Wehbe and Dr. Michael Tarr and funded by a Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship. My work at CMU aims to uncover the relationship between neural representations of high-level categories and lower-level visual features: how does the brain make use of statistical regularities in our everyday visual input, and use these to extract meaningful semantic information? I am also interested in how insights from human category learning may be leveraged toward building more robust, human-like artificial intelligence systems. 

During my PhD, my research explored how visual representations in the human brain are used to support flexible, goal-directed behavior. To address this, I used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure patterns of brain activation while healthy human subjects perform cognitive tasks. I then examined these patterns of activation using multivariate analysis methods to gain insight into the neural mechanisms that support task performance. My work resulted in several key findings, including confirming the importance of dorsal visual cortex in encoding the position-in-depth of objects (Henderson*, Vo* et al., 2019), investigating the role of frontal and parietal cortex in performance of abstract, flexible target object detection tasks (Henderson & Serences, 2019), and examining the role of sensory and motor coding formats in visual working memory (Henderson, Rademaker, & Serences, 2022). 

In a complementary line of work, I used convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to understand the origin of low-level perceptual biases in the visual system. My work demonstrated that, like humans, CNNs have higher acuity for items oriented vertically or horizontally compared to diagonally (classically known as the “oblique effect”). This suggests that perceptual biases we see in the human visual system can emerge through general visual experience with natural images (Henderson & Serences, 2021). 

Before starting at UCSD, I earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior, from Cornell University. While at Cornell, I did research in Dr. Robert Raguso‘s lab, studying the behavior of a tiny parasitic wasp species (T. ostriniae) with applications for biological pest control.

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