Michael Tarr, PhD

Adjunct Professor, Neuroscience, Psychology


115 Mellon Institute
F: 412-268-5060
Website >


PhD, MIT (1989)


High-level vision and categorization in humans

Research Summary

Dr. Tarr's research explores how humans visually perceive learn, process, recognize, and remember objects and faces. Over the years he has used a wide variety of techniques, including "computer-graphics" psychophysics, fMRI, DSI, ERP, MEG and computational modeling, as well as collaborating with other labs who use neuropsychological case studies and neurophysiological recordings.

Current research interests focus on the compositional feature code used to represent objects in human IT, on the origins of category-selective responses in human IT, and on interactions between the ventral visual stream and other processing systems (e.g., affective, dorsal, or semantic). Specific methods in use or under development include real-time, adaptive fMRI, high-density fiber tracking based on DSI, and aligned MEG/fMRI.Consistent with the open source model, the Tarr lab maintains an extensive stimulus archive provides access to their own collection of faces, familiar objects, and novel objects. The archive is a component of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition's much larger stimulus archive. Further information of potential use may be found on the software page detailing information about running and analyzing experiments using OS X.To find out more about us or our research, please see visit the appropriate pages in this site.


Barenholtz, E., & Tarr, M. J. Visual learning of statistical relations among nonadjacent features: Evidence for structural encoding. Visual Cognition, 19(4), 469-482, 2011. doi:10.1080/13506285.2011.552894.

Jiang, F., Dricot, L., Weber, J., Righi, G., Tarr, M. J., Goebel, R., & Rossion, B. Face categorization in visual scenes may start in a higher order area of the right fusiform gyrus: Evidence from dynamic visual stimulation in neuroimaging. J Neurophysiol, 106(5), 2720-36, 2011. doi:10.1152/jn.00672.2010

Lebrecht, S., Bar, M., Barrett, L. F., & Tarr, M. J. (2012). Micro-Valences: Perceiving affective valence in everyday objects. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 2012.

McGugin, R. W., Tanaka, J. W., Lebrecht, S., Tarr, M. J., & Gauthier, I. (2010). Race-specific perceptual discrimination improvement following short individuation training with faces. Cog Sci, 35, 330-347, 2012.

Nestor, A., Vettel, J. M., & Tarr, M. J. Internal representations for face detection: An application of noise-based image classification to BOLD responses. Human Brain Mapping, n/a., 2012. doi:10.1002/hbm.22128