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David H. Brainard

417 Goddard Labs, 3710 Hamilton Walk


David H. Brainard is the RRL Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He received an AB in Physics (Magna Cum Laude) from Harvard University (1982) and an MS (Electrical Engineering) and PhD (Psychology) from Stanford University in 1989. His research focuses on color vision, intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, retinal imaging, as well as computational models thereof. He is a fellow of the Optical Society, ARVO and the Association for Psychological Science. At present, he is the Associate Dean for for the Natural Sciences in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences. He also directs Penn's Vision Research Center, is on the President-Elect of the Vision Sciences Society, is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Vision, and is co-editor of the Annual Review of Vision Science.  

Research Interests

The Brainard Lab studies human vision, both experimentally and through computational modeling of visual processing. Our primary concern is with how the visual system estimates object properties from the information available in the light signal incident at the eye. To study this general problem, we conduct psychophysical experiments to investigate questions such as how object color appearance is related to object surface properties under a wide range of illumination conditions and how color is used to identify objects, and formulate computational models of the results. In addition, we are interested in developing machine visual systems that can mimic human performance and in understanding the neural mechanisms of vision.

Representative Recent Publications

(See Publications for more, or download Brainard's CV in PDF Format. Or visit Brainard's Google Scholar Page).

Cottaris, N. P., Jiang, H., Ding, X., Wandell, B. A., Brainard, D. H. (2018). A computational observer model of spatial contrast sensitivity: Effects of wavefront-based optics, cone mosaic structure, and inference engine. In press, Journal of Vision. (Preprint available at

Ruff, D. Brainard, D. H., Cohen, M. R. (2018). Neuronal population mechanisms of lightness perception. Journal of Neurophysiology, 120(5), 2296-2310, doi: 10.1152/jn.00906.2017. Download PDF.

Tuten, W. S., Cooper, R. F., Tiruveedhula, P., Dubra, A., Roorda, A., Cottaris, N. P., Brainard, D. H., Morgan, J. I. W. (2018). Spatial summation in the human fovea: do normal optical aberrations and fixational eye movements have an effect? Journal of Vision, 18(8):6, doi: 10.1167/18.8.6,

Brainard, D. H., Cottaris, N. P., Radonjić, A. (2018). The perception of color and material in natural tasks. Royal Society Interface Focus, 8(4), doi: 10.1098/rsfs.2018.0012. Download PDF.

Spitschan, M., Bock, A. S., Ryan, J., Frazzetta, G., Brainard, D. H., Aguirre, G. K. (2017). The human visual cortex response to melanopsin-directed stimulation is accompanied by a distinct perceptual experience. PNAS, 114(46), 12291–12296, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1711522114. Download PDF. Press release. [There is a link in the paper to a repository with the raw data. That link turns out to have a finite lifetime. The permalink to the data respository is:]

Cooper, R. F., Tuten, W. S., Dubra, A., Brainard, D. H., Morgan, J. I. W. (2017). Non-invasive assessment of human cone photoreceptor function. Biomedical Optics Express, 8(11), 5098-5112, doi: 10.1364/BOE.8.005098. Erratum: Biomed. Opt. Express, 2018,  9, 1842,


1. Ding, X., Radonjić, A., Cottaris, N. P., Jiang, H., Wandell, B. A., Brainard D. H. (2018). Computational-observer analysis of illumination discrimination. bioRxiv 302315,

Preregistered Experiments

Here is a link to our list of preregistered experiments.