NEUROSCI 355S: Visual Perception and the Brain

Reader requirements: Experience and/or advanced study in neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, psychology.

  1. Course Information
  2. Schedule
  3. Giving Feedback

Course Information:

Instructor: Prof. Dale Purves

Course explores how what we see is generated by the visual system. Since the eye and brain cannot access the physical properties of the world, it is hard to understand the behavioral success of biological vision. Students learn how the visual system links stimulus patterns with reproductive success without ever recovering real-world properties and without invoking feature detection, image representation in the brain, and probabilistic inference. Course considers in broader terms the relationship between the objective world and subjective human experience. Course delivered in “flipped” format with all lectures assigned as videos and class time devoted entirely to discussion of papers, problems and different perspectives on how the visual brain operates.

Student Writing Assignment:

What are students writing? Review.

For whom? People at least moderately expert in vision research and psychology.

Where would such writing typically be found? A review in a professional journal (e.g,, Nature Rev, Psych Rev).

Why would someone usually read it? Readers in science depend on succinct and clear summaries of complex topics. For practicing scientists creating reviews is a professional obligation.


The are the course deadlines, as they pertain to the Duke Reader Project:

Matches made by Feb 6th

Introductory meeting completed by Feb 23rd

  • Discuss student’s topic–to be approved by March 6th

Outline/Draft sent to Reader March 29th

  • Arrange for meeting (in person/Skype/phone) to discuss feedback

(Optional) Another draft sent to reader April 13th

  • Arrange for meeting (in person/Skype/phone) to discuss feedback or give written comments

Final papers due to instructor and reader April 27th

Course Syllabus: NS 355S Syllabus for 2018


Giving Feedback (general information that will apply to most courses):

Giving feedback is the activity around which the entire project is designed. You may have considerable professional experience giving feedback on writing — whether to colleagues, employees, or other contexts — or perhaps this is an fairly novel experience. Given the aims and nature of the Reader Project, we are hoping that our volunteers engage with student writing in a particular way–one that is quite different from what is conventionally done in other contexts.

The primary aim of the project is to help students really understand what it means to write for readers, rather than as a school assignment. Think about the following when you give feedback, whether in writing or in real time:

  • Respond as a reader rather than as an editor. (They can get basic editorial help from others.) Focus on sharing your reactions to the draft as a user of such writing. What are you thinking as you read? More