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Directeur de Recherche CNRS

Tél : (+33)(0)5-62-74-61-56

Perception and Recognition of Objects and Scenes


  • 2003-2013 : Head of CerCo (Centre de Recherche Cerveau et Cognition).
  • 2011-2013 : Head of CLESCO – Université Toulouse 3 doctoral school
  • 2003-2013 : Member of the board of directors of the "Toulouse Brain Sciences Institute"
  • 2009-2011 : Member of the Board "Strategic Direction of Research" Université Toulouse 3
  • 2009-2012 : Elected member of the Université of Toulouse 3 "Scientific College : Biology"
  • 2009-2012 : Member of the committee for promoting University professor
  • 2005-2009 : Member of the "board of specialists" section "neurosciences"
  • 2000 - 2004 : Member and Scientific administrator of the CNRS National Scientific Research Committee : Mental functions, Integrative Neurosciences, Behaviour.


I have always been interested in the way visual information is processed to control behaviour. I started working on the cerebral circuits involved in the learning and the control of visually guided reaching towards moving targets in cats. Since 1993 when I moved to Toulouse, I mainly focused on the fast visual processing of natural scenes in monkeys, humans and patients. Monkeys and Humans can be very fast at deciding whether a natural photograph flashed for only 20 ms contains an animal or not. This ability is linked with a differential brain activity between targets and distracters trials that develop from 150 ms after stimulus onset. The fast motor responses observed in such tasks could rely on an coarse, unconscious object representation. We have accumulated evidence showing that such rapid visual processing should be massively parallel, essentially feed-forward and based on the first available visual information. But this coarse object representation built from early visual information might not be sufficient for all object categories. It has proved to allow the categorization of animals, human faces or means of transport, but additionnal processing time is needed for categorization at the basic level such as dogs or birds. We have also been interested in analysing and timing object/context interactions. Facilitation and interference between object and context processing have been evidenced as early as 160 ms after stimulus onset ! Very recently I became interested in very long term memory. How efficient is our memory to keep trace of briefly flashed scenes that have been processed repetitively in the past but not seen for years ?

DEMONSTRATION (click to play)








  • Comparative approach (Monkeys/Humans)
  • Combined behavioral and EEG approach.
  • fMRI
  • Neuropsychology (agnosia, prosopagnosia, Alzheimer, Parkinson…)


  • DEA (Research Master)
  • Animal Cognition
  • Attentive and preattentive vision
  • Simon Thorpe : DR1 CNRS (CerCo)
  • Emmanuel Barbeau : DR2 CNRS (CerCo)
  • Leïla Reddy : CR1 CNRS (CerCo)
  • Ghislaine Richard : University lecturer (CerCo)
  • Florence Rémy : University lecturer (CerCo)
  • Rufin VanRullen : DR2 CNRS (CerCo)
  • Denis Fize : CR1 CNRS (CerCo)
  • Guillaume Rousselet (Glasgow – GB))
  • Muriel Boucart (Lille – France)
  • Delphine Pins (Lille - France)
  • Sandrine Delord (Bordeaux – France)
  • Jean-Luc Nespoulous (Toulouse)
  • Anne Viévard
  • Fabienne Levesque
  • Richard Carayan
  • Erika Lorincz
  • Arnaud Delorme
  • Anne Aubertin
  • Guillaume Rousselet
  • Olivier Joubert
  • Marc Macé
  • Maxime Cauchoix
  • Laure Saint-Aubert
  • Marlène Poncet


  • Chien-te Wu
  • Nadège Bacon-Macé


Natural scenes, Fast visual processing, dynamic of visual processing, Comparative approach (Humans and monkeys), EEG, Object recognition, Object categorization




  1. Wu C-T., Crouzet S., Thorpe S. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (in press). At 120 ms you can spot the animal but you don’t yet know it’s a dog. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
  2. Poncet M. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2014) Stimulus duration and diversity do not reverse the advantage for superordinate representations : the animal is seen before the bird. European Journal of Neuroscience, doi:10.1111/EJN12513
  3. Crouzet S.M., Joubert O.R., Thorpe S.J. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2012). Animal detection precedes access to scene category. PloS ONE 7(12), e51471.
  4. Fabre-Thorpe M. (2011). The characteristics and limits of rapid visual categorization. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 243, (pp1-12).
  5. Fize D., Cauchoix M. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2011). Humans and monkeys share visual representations. PNAS, April 18, 2011, doi : 10.1073/pnas.1016213108
  6. Macé M. J-M., Delorme A. Richard, G. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2010). Spotting animals in natural scenes : efficiency of humans and monkeys at very low contrasts. Animal Cognition, 13, 405-418
  7. Wu C-T, Busch, N.A., Fabre-Thorpe M. & VanRullen R. (2009). The temporal interplay between conscious and unconscious perceptual streams Current Biology 19(23) : 2003-2007.
  8. Macé M. J-M., Joubert, O.R., Nespoulous, J-L. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2009). Time-course of visual categorizations : You spot the animal faster than the bird. PLoSONE 4(6), e5927.
  9. Joubert O.R., Rousselet G. A, Fabre-Thorpe M. & Fize D. (2009). Role of phase and amplitude information in rapid categorization of natural scenes gist. Journal of Vision 9(1):2, 1–16
  10. Joubert O.R., Fize D., Rousselet G. A & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2008). Early interference of context congruence on object processing in rapid visual categorization of natural scenes. Journal of Vision, 8(13):11, 1-18.
  11. Rousselet G. A, Macé M. J-M., Thorpe S. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2007). Limits of ERP differences in tracking object processing speed. J. Cog Neurosci., 19(8), 1241-1258.
  12. Joubert O.R., Rousselet G. A, Fize D. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2007). Processing scene context : fast categorization and object interference. Vision Research, 47, 3286-3297.
  13. Macé M. J-M., Thorpe S.J. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2005) Rapid categorization of achromatic natural scenes : how robust at very low contrasts ? Eur J Neurosci., 21, 2007-2018.
  14. Rousselet G. A, Joubert O.R. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2005). How long to get to the gist of natural scenes ? Visual Cognition, 12(6), 852-877.
  15. Rousselet G. A., Thorpe S. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2004). How parallel is visual processing in the ventral pathway ? TICS (review), 8, 363-370.
  16. Rousselet G. A. Macé M. J-M. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2003). Is it an animal ? Is it a human face ? Fast processing in upright and inverted natural scenes. Journal of Vision, 3 (6), 440-456.
  17. Rousselet G., Fabre-Thorpe M. & Thorpe S.J. (2002). Parallel processing in high level categorization of natural images Nature Neuroscience, 5, 629-630.
  18. Fabre-Thorpe M., Delorme A., Marlot C. & Thorpe S.J. (2001). A limit to the speed of processing in Ultra-Rapid Visual categorisation of novel natural scenes. J Cognitive Neurosci, 13, 171-180
  19. Thorpe S.J. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2001). Seeking categories in the brain. Perspectives. Science, 291, 260-263.
  20. Delorme A., Richard G. & Fabre-Thorpe M. (2000). Ultra-rapid categorisation of natural images does not rely on colour : A study in monkeys and humans. Vision Research,40, 2187-2200

Mise à jour 19/11/2014