2016 William James Fellow
Richard B. Ivry
University of California, Berkeley
Richard B. Ivry’s seminal research program has transformed how we understand perception and action. His work addresses both the psychological and the neural processes underlying how people plan movements, select movements, coordinate them bi-manually, and perform them in a fluid, organized manner. His work on the role of the cerebellum and timing has provided the dominant view of how this structure contributes to fluid movements. Critically, and against traditional views, Ivry’s work has extended the role of the cerebellum outside the motor domain to cognitive control. Most recently, he has proposed, on the basis of his own empirical findings, a dual theory of cerebellar function. He posits that the cerebellum is critical for event timing requiring explicit recognition of temporal parameters but not with tasks related to emergent timing, where temporal parameters are not explicit. This novel theory integrates a vast amount of data and attests to the depth of his work in this field.
His recent work on linguistics and the concept of embedded cognition has opened up an entirely new field of inquiry. He has provided empirical evidence for unexpected associations between language processing and basic perceptual processes. In brief, by selectively presenting information to the left, language-dominant hemisphere or right hemisphere, Ivry has delineated different perceptual process that are embedded in the left hemisphere.
All of Ivry’s work is characterized by elegant theorizing and the use of modern methods, such as functional MRI, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and more recently, intracranial recording. Whenever possible, Ivry also takes advantage of experiments of nature, such as strokes, to test both his theories and the causal aspects of findings obtained from other methods. For instance, if a functional MRI study implicated the basal ganglia in some aspect of action, Ivry would test whether a lesion to that structure disrupted behavior. This drive to establish causality is a hallmark of his outstanding research program.
See Ivry’s award address presented at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago, IL, USA.