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Dr David Tolhurst

I study how the visual system encodes and uses the spatio-temporal information in complex retinal images using psychophysical experiments and computational modelling.
Dr David Tolhurst

University Senior Lecturer

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 333889, Fax: +44 (0) 1223 333840

Research areas


Research Interests

I am interested in how single neurons in, say, visual cortex encode the spatio-chromatic information in visual scenes. Then, I am interested in how the responses of the neurons are used to determine human detection and perception of scenes, especially while they perform natural tasks. This involves psychophysical experiments with digitised photographs of natural scenes, and computational modelling of neuron receptive fields and their nonlinear interactions. Experimentally, I study how well people can detect differences between paired photographs and then I model how populations of visual cortex neurons might signal those differences.


I lecture and/or organise Lab classes in neuroscience topics in Parts IB and II, and in Physiology of Organisms Part IA

Key Publications

To MPS, Gilchrist ID, Tolhurst DJ, (2015), Perception of differences in naturalistic dynamic scenes, and a V1-based model, Journal of Vision, 15(1):19, 1‑13

Clatworthy PL, Warburton EA, Tolhurst DJ, Baron J-C, (2013), Visual contrast sensitivity deficits in “normal” visual field of patients with homonymous visual field defects due to stroke: a pilot study, Cerebrovascular Diseases, 36, 329-336

Asher MF, Tolhurst DJ, Troscianko T, Gilchrist ID, (2013), Regional effects of clutter on human target detection performance, Journal of Vision, 13(5):25, 1‑15

Willmore B, Bulstrode H, Holhurst DJ, (2012), Contrast normalization contributes to a biologically-plausible learning rule (BCM) for receptive-field development in primary visual cortex (V1), Vision Research, 54, 49-60

To MPS, Gilchrist ID, Troscianko T, Tolhurst DJ, (2011), Discrimination of natural scenes in central and peripheral vision, Vision Research, 51, 1686-1698

To MPS, Baddeley RJ, Troscianko T, Tolhurst DJ, (2011), A general rule for sensory cue summation: Evidence from photographic, musical, phonetic and cross-modal stimuli, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278, 1365-1372

Tolhurst DJ, To MPS, Chirimuuta M, Troscianko T, Chua PY, Lovell PG, (2010), Magnitude of perceived change in natural images may be linearly proportional to differences in neuronal firing rates, Seeing & Perceiving, 23, 349-372

To MPS, Lovell PG, Troscianko T, Tolhurst DJ, (2010), Perception of suprathreshold naturalistic changes in colored natural images, Journal of Vision, 10(4):12, 1‑22

Tolhurst DJ, Smyth D, Thompson ID, (2009), The sparseness of neuronal responses in ferret primary visual cortex, Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 2355-2370

Above: a simple cell in ferret visual cortex responds well to a photograph when there is a feature that just matches its receptive field configuration. (Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 4746-4759)

Above: presumably, you can easily tell that these two photographs differ, but...


...can you see the differences between these two photographs? A computer model of visual cortex neuronal responses suggests that the neurons can detect many differences but we, human observers, discard much of that (useless) in formation. (Journal of Vision, 10(4):12, 1‑22)