Stephen A Engel

Photo of Stephen A Engel

Contact Me

Dept of Psychology
N218 Elliott Hall

75 E River Rd

The simple acts of recognizing a friend's face, or noticing the color of their hair, require an enormous amount of work by our brains. My lab focuses on understanding this work. We use the methods of cognitive neuroscience to characterize precisely how neurons in the human brain support visual perception. Most of our experiments combine behavioral measurements of perception with functional MRI or EEG measurements of neural activity.

One main topic under investigation is plasticity in the visual system. We are currently investigating the extent to which the adult visual system can modify itself through visual adaptation and learning. The adaptation work investigates how the visual system responds to changes in the environment, using a novel "altered reality" system based on VR technology, that allows users to see in a world that is just like ours, but that differs in a controlled way. We are currently studying, for example, how the visual system changes when we remove (or enhance) all vertical lines from what subjects see, over periods of minutes, hours, and even multiple days.

We also are applying the lessons we have learned to aid clinical therapies. One project is examining the effects of using altered reality to allow people with macular degeneration to view displays where the information hidden behind their scotomas is remapped to another part of the visual field. We also have projects applying knowledge of neuroplasticity to aid therapies for strabismus and amblyopia.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Psychology, Stanford University, 1995.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Cognitive neuroscience of visual perception
Courses Taught
  • Psy 3031- Sensation and Perception
  • Psy 5063- Introduction to Functional MRI
  • Psy 1905- Psychology of Design
  • Vergeer, M., Mesik, J., Baek, Y., Wilmerding, K., & Engel, S. A. (2018). Orientation-selective contrast adaptation measured with SSVEP. Journal of Vision, 18, Download
  • Gupta, A., Mesik, J., Engel, S.A., Smith, R., Schatza, M., Calabrese, A., van Kuijk, F.J., Erdman, A.G., & Legge, G.E. (2018). Beneficial effects of spatial remapping for reading with simulated central field loss. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 59, 1105-1112. Download
  • Engel, S. A., Wilkins, A. J., Mand, S., Helwig, N. E., & Allen, P. M. (2016). Habitual wearers of colored lenses adapt more rapidly to the color changes the lenses produce. . Vision Research, 121, 41-48. Download
  • Haak, K. V., Fast, E., Bao, M., Lee, M., & Engel, S. A. (2014). Four Days of Visual Contrast Deprivation Reveals Limits of Neuronal Adaptation. Current Biology, 24, 2575-2579. Download
  • Bao M., & Engel S.A. (2012). Distinct mechanism for long-term contrast adaptation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. , 109(15), 5898-903. Download
  • Zhang P., Jamison K., Engel S.A., He B., & He S. (2011). Binocular rivalry requires visual attention. Neuron, 71, 362-269. Download
  • Bao M., Yang L., Rios C., He B., Engel S.A. (2010). Perceptual learning increases the strength of the earliest signals in visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 15080-15084. Download
  • Zhang, P,. Bao, M., Kwon, M., He, S., & Engel, S. A.. (2009). Effects of orientation specific visual deprivation measured using altered reality. Current Biology, Download
  • Harley, E.M., Pope, W.M., Villablanca, J.P., Mumford, J., Suh, R. Mazziotta, J.C., Enzmann, D. & Engel, S.A. (2009). Engagement of fusiform cortex and disengagement of lateral occipital cortex across the acquisition of radiological expertise. Cerebral Cortex, Download
  • Engel, Stephen A (2005). Adaptation of Oriented and Unoriented Color-Selective Neurons in Human Visual Areas. Neuron, 45, 613-23.
  • Furmanski, C. S., Schluppeck, D., & Engel, S. A. (2004). Learning Strengthens the Response of Primary Visual Cortex to Simple Patterns. Current Biology, 14, 573-578.
  • Tong, F. H., & Engel, S. A. (2001). Interocular rivalry revealed in the human cortical blind-spot representation. Nature, 411, 195-199.