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Charest Lab

Our mission is to investigate representational idiosyncrasies using visual objects. On this site, you can discover more about us and our work.

European Research Council


The Charest lab at the University of Birmingham uses visual objects as a proxy to study aspects of cognition such as perception, consciousness, memory, and decision making.

We use neuroimaging techniques such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Magneto-Electroencephalography(M-EEG), combined with psychophysical experiments of vision to investigate the brain mechanisms behind these cognitive processes, with a focus on honouring individual representational idiosyncrasies. We also use deep convolutional neuronal networks to further characterise cognition and the brain.


  • Dr. Ian Charest
    Senior Lecturer
    Dr Ian Charest is a cognitive computational neuroscientist generally interested in high-level vision and audition. He leads the Charest Lab at the University of Birmingham and the Centre for Human Brain Health, where he and his team investigate object recognition in the brain using neuroimaging techniques such as magneto-electroencephalography (M-EEG), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). His work makes use of advanced computational modelling and analysis techniques, including machine learning, representational similarity analysis (RSA), and artificial neural networks (ANNs), to better understand human brain function. The current topics of research in the lab include information processing in the brain during perception, memory, and visual consciousness when recognising and interpreting natural scenes and visual objects. The laboratory is currently funded by an European Research Council - Starting Grant (759432) to investigate object recognition, visual consciousness, with a focus on individual differences in brain and behaviour.

  • Dr. Jasper van den Bosch
    Postdoctoral Scientist
    Jasper studied Psychology and Neuroscience in Maastricht and Rome. He then worked on PhD research on multisensory integration in Frankfurt. He went on to do a postdoc with Patricia Kuhl in Seattle, and with Niko Kriegeskorte in Cambridge. He then joined the Charest lab in 2018. His research focuses on the interplay between semantic and perceptual representation, from a multi-sensory perspective.

  • Dr. Ludwig Barbaro
    Postdoctoral Scientist
    Ludwig studied medicine at the University of Pisa, and completed his Ph.D. in Cognitive and Brain Sciences in CIMeC, under the supervision of Clayton Hickey and Marius Peelen. His interests include real-world object recognition, visual attention and the way vision and motivation interact with each other. He is currently a postdoc in the CharestLab, where he has conducted a project on the effects of task-relevance on the neural representation of visual objects using EEG and fMRI.

  • Katerina Simkova
    Research Assistant
    Research: Cognitive Neuroscience
    conscious access

  • Dr. Adrien Doerig
    Visiting Scholar
    Adrien studied neuroscience and physics at EPFL, and completed his Ph.D. in Neuroscience there under the supervision of Michael Herzog. His interests include neural computations in recurrent networks, in particular for vision, and, more broadly, understanding how and when different computational properties emerge in neural networks. He also works on theoretical issues in consciousness science. Currently, is a postdoc with Tim Kietzmann at the Donders Institute, and is visiting scholar at the University of Birmingham and the University of Cambridge.

  • Daniel Lindh
    PhD Candidate
    Daniel studied Cognitive Science at Umeå University before completing his Research Masters in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam. He is currently in the end of his Ph.D. working together with Ian Charest, Kim Shapiro and Ilja Sligte in a joint Ph.D. programme between University of Birmingham and University of Amsterdam. During the past few years he has been investigating attention, working memory, and conscious experience. Specifically, he is using fMRI/EEG, neural networks and cognitive models to investigate how hierarchical information-flow (from low-level visual features to semantics representations) is processed when presented in a fast sequence, hoping to unveil the essential mechanisms for perception.

  • Simon Faghel-Soubeyrand
    PhD Candidate
    Simon Faghel-Soubeyrand is completing a PhD in cognitive neuroscience under the supervision of Ian Charest (University of Birmingham, UK) and Frédéric Gosselin (Université de Montréal, Canada). His work is centered on the perceptual and brain mechanisms that support individual differences in visual representations and recognition ability, with an emphasis for high-level representations (faces & objects). He uses a combination of psychophysical techniques, brain imaging, and machine learning to probe the mental representations of individuals from a neurotypical population, super-recognisers, and “pathological” populations, including prosopagnosia, and individuals on the schizophrenia and autism spectrum.

  • Daniel Perez Zapata
    Daniel studied psychology at the University of Tarapaca (Chile) and completed a MPhil in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Queensland (Australia) under the supervision of Prof. Virginia Slaughter and Prof. Julie Henry. His current PhD project is supervised by Dr. Ian Charest and Prof. Ian Apperly, which is focused on how individuals understand cognitively pure coordination games (i.e., players actively try to align their responses to each other with no communication whatsoever). To achieve this goal, he is interested in building new social measures, and apply representational similarity analysis (RSA) in order to find out: whether people are able to coordinate with each other successfully in social scenarios, and whether they show individual differences in alignment agreements. This research might shed some light into how individuals understand online social interaction.


  • Yifan Xu
    PhD Candidate
    Research: Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Eva Bamps
    MSc Candidate
    Research: Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Yuxuan Zeng
    MSc Candidate
    Yuxuan studied biological science at Sichuan University (China), and completed MSc in Brain Imaging and Cognitive Neuroscience at University of Birmingham, under the supervision of Dr. Ian Charest and Dr. Jasper van den Bosch. She worked on multisensory real-world object representations at the Charest Lab and really enjoyed her time there. She is now working as a research assistant in China and most likely will keep pursuing a PhD degree in high-level visual perception with neuroimaging and computational model as methods in the near future.

  • Subati Abulikimi
    Undergrad Research Assistant
    Subati did his undergraduate studies of psychology and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Birmingham, where he investigated the conscious recognition of visual objects. He is currently studying Translational Neuroscience at the Imperial College London, and he is interested in brain connectivity, and the application of computational methods to improve the diagnostic precision of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

  • Charlie Wong
    Bsc Candidate
    I completed my Human Neuroscience Bachelor degree at the University of Birmingham. During my final year project, I was involved with the research of emotional categorization and multivariate pattern analysis using EEG in the lab. I was very fascinated by how we can link the brain process to behaviour by decoding brain signals recorded in EEG. I absolutely enjoyed the time in this research and this has really widened my knowledge in this field. In the future, I would like to get into clinical psychology and explore more on how to develop interventions for different psychological disorders.

  • Lara Oliel
    MSc Candidate
    Lara studied physiology and neuroscience at Sorbonne université (Paris, France), and psycholinguistics at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris). She joined the Charest Lab for a 3 month internship during her Master's degree, and worked on linking brain and behavioral measures of visual object similarity. She is now a public school teacher in France (for children between 3 and 10 years old).

  • Dr. Sara Assecondi
    Postdoctoral Scientist
    Research: Cognitive neuroscience
    and Methods


May 2019 - The lab attended VSS 2019.

We presented our latest work via posters, and talks. If you didn't make it to VSS, and would like to check out what we presented, see this GitHub Repo

May 2019 - Lara joins the lab!

The lab is happy to welcome Lara Oliel. Lara is currently completing a Masters degree in Integrative Biology and Physiology at the Sorbonne University Pierre and Marie Curie Campus. She joins the lab to gain experience in cognitive neuroscience and will help with various current projects.

January 2019 - Yifan joins the lab!

The lab is happy to welcome Yifan Xu, who is joining to work on the neurocognitive mechanisms of emotion recognition.

November 2018 - Christina joins the lab!

The lab is happy to welcome Christina Dimitriadou. Christina will work on collecting an important multimodal
dataset with several cognitive tasks in EEG, fMRI, and behaviour.

Current projects and collaborations

Individual differences in brain representations

Everyone is unique, and one challenge of brain imaging is to develop new tools to better understand brain function in individual people.
Pattern across subjects Pattern across stimuli Pattern across voxels
Honoring the unique response of each individual brain, in each cortical patch or column to each particular stimulus.
Early neuroimaging studies have focusses on analyses or regional-mean activation, averaging across voxels within a region of interest (e.g. a face region), across stimuli within a given category (e.g. a individual faces), and across individual subjects (black circle above). The field has begun to honour these distinctions, by analysing patterns of activity within each region, responses to single exemplar images, and the variation across individuals. However, only recently have all these components of progress been combined (red circle) in a single study.
Click here to read our paper.

Contact us

School of Psychology
College of Life & Environmental Sciences
Hills Building
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham
B15 2TT