Marlene Behrmann

University of Pittsburgh

Primary Section: 52, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2015)


Marlene Behrmann is a cognitive neuroscientist recognized for her work on the psychological and neural bases of visual processing. In particular, her research focuses on the mechanisms by which the signals from the eye are transformed into meaningful and coherent percepts by the brain. She adopts an interdisciplinary approach using a combination of computational, neuropsychological and brain imaging studies with normal and brain-damaged individuals as well as with individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. Behrmann was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and obtained a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology at the University of the Witwatersrand. She received a British Council Scholarship to the University of London, and then received a PhD in experimental psychology from the University of Toronto. Behrmann joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in 1993 and recently chaired the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition at CMU. Behrmann is a Fellow of the American Psychological Society and has received many awards including the Presidential Early Career Award for Engineering and Science and the APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contributions. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Marlene Behrmann's laboratory is interested in the psychological and neural mechanisms that underlie visual processing. Despite the paucity of input from the retina (roughly amount and wave length of light), humans can recognize visual scenes and their content with remarkable ease, speed and accuracy. To elucidate the mechanisms by which this is achieved, Behrmann adopts a multiplicity of research methods including neuroimaging and electrophysiology, along with detailed psychophysics in normal and brain-damaged (stroke, trauma) individuals, as well as in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders (autism, face blindness).  For example, Behrmann’s lab has characterized the neural circuit associated with face processing, as well as the structural connectivity between the nodes, and has elucidated the neural code associated with identifying individual faces. Behrmann and colleagues have also documented the interactivity between disparate parts of the visual system, namely the ventral temporal structures and the dorsal parietal structures, and its emergence over the course of development. In addition, Behrmann’s lab has provided empirical support and a theoretical account, using computational approaches, for the processes that govern the organization of the two cerebral hemispheres in adult humans and the developmental trajectory by which this neural profile emerges.

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