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 SocietyARVO and the Association for Psychological Science. At present, he is the Associate Dean for the Natural Sciences in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences. He also directs Penn’s Vision Research Center, is the President 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).

Twomey, C. R., Roberts, G., Brainard, D., Plotkin, J. B. (2021), What we talk about when we talk about color, PNAS,

McAdams, H., Kaiser, E. A., Igdalova, A., Haggerty, E. B.., Cucchiara, B., Brainard, D. H., Aguirre, G. K. (2020). Selective amplification of ipRGC signals accounts for interictal photophobia in migraine, PNAS, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2007402117Download PDF.

Cottaris, N. P., Wandell, B. A., Reike, F., Brainard, D. H. (2020). A computational observer model of spatial contrast sensitivity: Effects of photocurrent encoding, fixational eye movements, and inference engine. Journal of Vision, 20(7):17, https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.7.17.

Brainard, D. H. (2019). Color, pattern, and the retinal cone mosaic. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 30:41–47, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2019.05.005. Download PDF.

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. Preprint available at https://doi.org/10.1101/294280.

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, https://jov.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2697364.

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.

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. https://www.osapublishing.org/boe/abstract.cfm?uri=boe-8-11-5098. Erratum: Biomed. Opt. Express, 2018, 9, 1842, https://doi.org/10.1364/BOE.9.001842.

Barnett, M. A., Aguirre, G. K., Brainard, D. H. (2021). A quadratic model captures the human V1 response to variations in chromatic direction and contrast, eLife, 2021;10:e65590, https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.65590.

Kaiser, E. A., McAdams, H., Igdalova, A., Haggerty, E. B., Cucchiara, B., Brainard, D. H., Aguirre, G. K. (2021). Reflexive eye closure in response to cone and melanopsin stimulation: A study of implicit measures of light sensitivity in migraine, Neurology, https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000012734. Download PDF.

Zhang, L., Cottaris, N. P., Brainard, D. H. (2021). An image reconstruction framework for characterizing early vision. bioRxiv2021.06.02.446829, https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.02.446829.

Singh, V., Burge, J., Brainard, D. H. Equivalent noise characterization of human lightness constancy. bioRxiv2021.06.04.447171, https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.04.447171

Cooper, R. F., Brainard, D. H., Morgan, J. I. W. (2020). Optoretinography of individual human cone photoreceptors. Optics Express, 28, 39326-39339, https://www.osapublishing.org/oe/fulltext.cfm?uri=oe-28-26-39326&id=444748.

Vincent, J., Haggerty, E. B., Brainard, D. H., Aguirre, G. K. (2021). Melanopic stimulation does not affect psychophysical threshold sensitivity for luminance flicker. Scientific Reports, 11, 20167, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-99684-0.

Preregistered Experiments

Here is a link to our list of preregistered experiments.