In 1984, Robert William Kentridge began studying for a PhD at the University of Durham on the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in neural basis of reinforcement in rats, under the supervision of Professor John Patrick Aggleton. He obtained his PhD in 1988, and then took up a post-doctoral position with Professor Aggleton, examining the role of the amygdala in memory.
Having become allergic to rats, Robert changed direction and began studying early processes in visual attention and eye movements with Professor John Findlay, also in Durham. His expertise in computer programming gaze-contingent eye movement experiments led to a collaboration with Professor Charles Heywood and Professor Lawrence Weiskrantz in neuropsychological research that has continued to this day. Since the late 1980’s, His research has concentrated on the neuropsychology of visual perception and attention, and on the perception of the surface properties of objects. Robert has written over 80 academic publications.
In 1999, Robert and his collaborators, Heywood and Weiskrantz, were the first to demonstrate that a patient with the neurological condition blindsight was capable of directing his attention to stimuli that he could not see. Despite the fact that attention selectively enhanced the processing of these stimuli, the fact that the blindsight patient still did not see them showed that visual attention and visual consciousness were distinct and separate processes. Subsequently, Kentridge, Nijboer and Heywood showed that the same was true of neurologically normal people.
He has also conducted research into the neural bases of colour vision through the study of patients with cerebral achromatopsia. He has shown that such patients, despite having no conscious experience of colour, extract colour contrast signals from visual information originating in the retina. Kentridge, Heywood and Weiskrantz have furthermore shown that a patient with an extensive lesion to their striate cortex does not even extract contrast signals and responds behaviourally only to the wavelength of light. This shows that it is only the very final stage of the transformation of retinal signals into estimates of the surface property of colour that gives rise to conscious experience.
Recently, Robert has been using functional neuroimaging to distinguish the brain areas involved in the perception of colour, shape, texture and glossiness to complement corresponding neurological studies.
He is a member of a number of academic societies, including the International Neuropsychological Symposium.
Credits: Robert William Kentridge
Published: 22 April 2015
Last updated: 29 October 2016
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