Hello, my name is Catrina Hacker and I am a junior undergraduate majoring in neuroscience. I joined the Image Understanding Lab in Fall 2016 after developing an interest in how the brain, automatically and effortlessly, allows us to make sense of a novel image in just a fraction of a second.

Perhaps the most impressive of these challenges of image understanding is how we can readily identify a face despite the subtle and ineffable differences that distinguish one person from another. Although the evolutionary advantage of such an ability is evident-it is one of the critical capacities that render us social animals--the exact mechanisms by which the brain performs these processes (or fails to do so, as is the case with prosopagnosics who struggle with facial recognition) are still a scientific challenge. Using both behavioral and imaging techniques, I aim to better understand the process by which different areas of the brain work together to instantly form a sophisticated representation of an identity given only a glance at a face.

Since joining the Image Understanding Lab, one branch of my research has focused on the facility and rapidity of familiar face recognition under conditions of high uncertainty. This research (Hacker et al., 2018) has shown that an unspecified familiar celebrity face can be detected and identified in as little as 133 msec, demonstrating the remarkable speed of face recognition. Additionally, some of my current projects explore the differences in the ability of prosopagnosics and normal subjects to overcome changes in their representation of a face including rotation in depth, alterations of facial expression and affine transformations.



Honors and Awards

Contact Information

University of Southern California
Image Understanding Lab HNB 316
3641 Watt Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2520
Lab Phone: (213) 740-6102
Fax: (213) 740-5687
Email: chacker@usc.edu