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A computational design project (creating 2D shapes to be used in a perceptual learning study)




9: Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Faculty Supervisor:

Pawan Sinha

Faculty email:


Apply by:


Shlomit Ben-Ami (shlomit@mit.edu) and Pawan Sinha (psinha@mit.edu)

Project Description

This is a small-scope computational project, within a broader experimental project. The overall goal of the broad project, in collaboration with The Minducate Science of Learning Research and Innovation Center and Project Prakash, is to addresses the need for developing research-driven rehabilitation to improve learning of visual shapes and patterns in individuals with perceptual difficulties. We are building an experiment to investigate the plasticity of visual recognition through motor training. The task in this UROP project is creating 2D shapes for which similarity can be quantified and adjusted. This will involve coding with mostly R, Matlab and/or Python. The UROP student will contribute to the computational design of these stimuli, which subjects will later be asked to visually discriminate while being scanned in an fMRI machine, before and after receiving motor training with these shapes. This will help us examine the interplay between motor and visual feedback for perceptual learning. If the experimental interventions prove useful in healthy subjects, they will be applied to assess the developmental progression of recovering visuo-spatial skills after sight onset in patients receiving sight-restoring cataract-removal surgery in India, and to train those skills. The student will work closely with a post-doc and PhD student in the lab, and with Prof. Sinha as a supervisor. After creation of stimuli, if the student chooses to stay on for winter semester, they will have substantial opportunity to work independently and to navigate their continued role, according to desired level of involvement and their interest in learning experimental design and data analysis. For example, the student can choose to be involved in designing, running and/or analyzing online experiments for testing the created visual stimuli. Involvement with data analysis of tracing movements and fMRI optional as well. This position is available for pay or credit.


The ideal candidate will have strong programing and analytical skills and experience working with Matlab and/or Python and/or R. Experience with graphical software such as Adobe Illustrator an advantage. Advantage for being able to continue into the winter semester with a 6-12 hour commitment. A background in computer science, mathematics, physics, engineering, architecture, brain and cognitive sciences, or related field is desired.