Dr Sam Schwarzkopf

Phd (2007) & BSc Hons (2003) in neuroscience at Cardiff University


I did my undergraduate studies in neuroscience at Cardiff University and subsequently decided to stay there also to do my PhD in the lab of Frank Sengpiel. There I studied the experience-dependent plasticity of visual cortex. Subsequently, I did a brief postdoc project at the University of Birmingham, where I moved into human neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience. In 2008, I moved to University College London to join the lab of Geraint Rees at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging (the “FIL”) and the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (ICN) as postdoctoral research fellow. In 2012, I was awarded a ERC Starting Grant to support my research. I moved to the department of Experimental Psychology and the Birkbeck-UCL Centre for Neuroimaging (BUCNI) to set up an independent lab there to study spatial heterogeneity in perceptual functions across the visual field. In 2017 I decided to move to the School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, although part of my lab currently continues on in London.

Research | Current

The overarching goal of my lab’s research is to better understand what in the brain makes us perceive the world the way we do. Therefore, we study the variability and commonalities between people’s perception on the one hand (e.g. the susceptibility to visual illusions or misperceptions) and brain function and morphology on the other hand. Our research mainly employs functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioural, psychophysical measurements. Specifically, we develop methods to measure the selectivity and functional architecture of sensory cortex (population receptive field mapping, encoding models) as well as novel behavioural methods for inferring what a person perceives. Putting together the information gained from such experiments then enables us to develop computational models for how perception arises in the human brain and how changes in these mechanisms can result in different percepts, both in health and disease.

Postgraduate supervision

Mr Poutasi Watson who studies the use of physiological markers of subjective perceptual states.

In addition, I currently supervise two PhD students who are still based at my previous lab at UCL in London:

Ms Man-Ling Ho studies means to use brain imaging to reconstruct how individuals perceive visual illusions as well as novel means to measure the strength of such illusions.

Ms Susanne Stoll studies the neural processes underlying perceptual grouping in the brain and is developing methods to visualise topographic information about visual brain regions.

Areas of expertise

Contextual processing, visual illusions, retinotopic mapping, population receptive field modelling, functional MRI, visual psychophysics, perceptual grouping, visual awareness, individual differences

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • van Dijk, J. A., de Haas, B., Moutsiana, C., & Schwarzkopf, D. S. (2016). Intersession reliability of population receptive field estimates. Neuroimage, 143, 293-303. 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.09.013
  • de Haas, B., Schwarzkopf, D. S., Alvarez, I., Lawson, R. P., Henriksson, L., Kriegeskorte, N., & Rees, G. (2016). Perception and processing of faces in the human brain is tuned to typical feature locations. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36 (36), 9289-9302. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4131-14.2016
  • Moutsiana, C., de Haas, B., Papageorgiou, A., van Dijk, J. A., Balraj, A., Greenwood, J. A., & Schwarzkopf, D. S. (2016). Cortical idiosyncrasies predict the perception of object size. Nature Communications, 710.1038/ncomms12110
  • Song, C., Schwarzkopf, D. S., Kanai, R., & Rees, G. (2015). Neural population tuning links visual cortical anatomy to human visual perception. Neuron, 85 (3), 641-656. 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.12.041
  • Schwarzkopf, D. S., Anderson, E. J., de Haas, B., White, S. J., & Rees, G. (2014). Larger extrastriate population receptive fields in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Neuroscience, 34 (7), 2713-2724. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4416-13.2014
  • de Haas, B., Schwarzkopf, D. S., Anderson, E. J., & Rees, G. (2014). Perceptual load affects spatial tuning of neuronal populations in human early visual cortex. Current Biology, 24 (2), R66-R67. 10.1016/j.cub.2013.11.061
  • Schwarzkopf, D. S., & Rees, G. (2013). Subjective size perception depends on central visual cortical magnification in human V1. PLoS One, 8 (3)10.1371/journal.pone.0060550
  • Schwarzkopf, D. S., Robertson, D. J., Song, C., Barnes, G. R., & Rees, G. (2012). The frequency of visually induced gamma-band oscillations depends on the size of early human visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (4), 1507-1512. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4771-11.2012

Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 503 - Bldg 503
Level 3, Room 361
New Zealand