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Hans Op de Beeck





Hans Op de Beeck

Laboratorium voor Biologische Psychologie

Tiensestraat 102 - bus 3714

B-3000 Leuven

(+32) 16 326039 or (+32) 16 326145


About me

I am a professor in the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) since 2009. I am part of the Laboratory of Biological Psychology (LBP). I study the neural mechanisms underlying visual cognition, learning, visuospatial navigation, and visual intelligence.

Research positions

I obtained a master’s degree (1999) and a Ph.D. degree (2003) in Psychology in Leuven, under the supervision of Johan Wagemans and Rufin Vogels. In 2003-2006 I was a postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), where I worked with Nancy Kanwisher and Jim DiCarlo.

During many years (PhD research and postdoc years) I received fellowships from the Fund for Scientific Research (FWO) Flanders. Other awards include a long-term fellowship and a career development award of the international Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), a honorary fellowship of the Belgian-American Educational Foundation (BAEF), the prize of the research council Leuven in 2008, laureaat of the academy of Flanders (KVAB), and member of the Jonge Academie.


My research group investigates the neural underpinnings of visual cognition and learning with techniques such as behavioral analyses (psychophysics), brain imaging (fMRI) in humans, and extracellular single-neuron recordings in rodents.

The long-term goal of the research is to understand and improve how humans and other animals with normal and deprived vision perceive and learn about their visual environment, a topic referred to as “visual intelligence”. The research starts from the fact that whatever humans and animals perceive, think, and do, is ultimately based upon what happens in the brain. Thus, brain research methods take a central position in this research. The research group applies advanced brain imaging techniques in humans to find out as much as possible about the underlying neural mechanisms in the human brain, and we complement this work with animal research (extracellular recordings combined with advanced behavioural paradigms) for questions that cannot be answered with human research. Specific research topics are the role of visual experience for internal representations of the visual environment, the role of object shape/form for object recognition and categorization, the processing of ‘special’ types of visual stimuli such as faces and written words, and the interaction between vision and other mental faculties such as navigation.

The members of the research group involved in the brain imaging research include Annelies Baeck, Marijke Brants, Elfi Goesaert, and Jonas Kubilius. Several researchers, including Lien Peters, Jessica Bulthé and Claudia Dillen, are affiliated with several labs as they are involved in collaborations with other research groups (e.g., J. Steyaert and B. Boets from child psychiatry, and educational neuroscientist B. De Smedt) in order to combine this fundamental brain imaging research with research on clinical populations such as autism, dyslexia, and dyscalculia. There is also a close interaction with J. Wagemans of the Laboratory for Experimental Psychology in the context of his Methusalem funding. Another line of research focuses upon the basic neurophysiological mechanisms underlying perception and learning in rodents. This line of work is currently being pursued by Christophe Bossens, Kasper Vinken, Gert Van den Bergh and Ben Vermaercke. This work also involves a close interaction with profs. Rudi D’Hooge and Detlef Balschun of the Laboratory of Biological Psychology and with Prof. L. Arckens form Biology.

This research is funded through many grants, including a starting grant from the European Research Council (ERC), multiple FWO grants and fellowships, grants from the Research Council of the KU Leuven (e.g., CREA, IDO, and a GOA with Rudi D’Hooge as main promotor) and in the past also the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP).


Selected publications

A full list of my publications is embedded in the publication list of the lab which you can find here. Below are some example publications:

Vermaercke B. & Op de Beeck H.P. (2012). A multivariate approach reveals the behavioral templates underlying visual discrimination in rats. Current Biology, 22, 50-55. (Impact Factor: 10).

Kubilius J., Wagemans J. & Op de Beeck H.P. (2011). Emergence of perceptual Gestalts in the human visual cortex: The case of the configural superiority effect. Psychological Science, 22, 1296-1303. (Impact Factor: 4.7)

Brants M., Wagemans J., & Op de Beeck H.P. (2011). Activation of fusiform face area by Greebles is related to face similarity but not expertise. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 3949-3958. (Impact Factor: 5.4)

Op de Beeck H.P. & Baker C.I. (2010). The neural basis of visual object learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 22-30. (Impact Factor: 11.7)

Op de Beeck H.P., Haushofer J. & Kanwisher N. (2008). Interpreting fMRI data: Maps, modules, and dimensions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 123-135. (Impact Factor: 26.5)

Op de Beeck H.P., Torfs K. & Wagemans J. (2008). Perceived shape similarity among unfamiliar objects and the organization of the human object vision pathway. Journal of Neuroscience, 28, 10111-10123. (Impact Factor: 7.2)

Op de Beeck H.P., Baker C.I., DiCarlo J.J. & Kanwisher N. (2006). Discrimination training alters object representations in human extrastriate cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 13025-13036. (Impact Factor: 7.2)

Op de Beeck H., Wagemans J. & Vogels R. (2001). Inferotemporal neurons represent low-dimensional configurations of parameterized shapes. Nature Neuroscience, 4, 1244-1252. (Impact Factor: 14.7)

Op de Beeck H. & Vogels R. (2000). Spatial sensitivity of macaque inferior temporal neurons. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 426, 505-518. (Impact Factor: 3.7)

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