Assistant professor

Johannes Fahrenfort

Assistant professor

Phone: +31 (0) 20 598 6907
Room: 1B-69

Personal webpage


I am currently working on a number of projects. One project in the context of an ORA grant awarded to Chris Olivers in which I investigate the role of binding in working memory representations using time frequency analysis and multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) on EEG data. Another project pertains the degree to which feature integration depends on attention using MVPA and EEG. Finally, I'm in the process of setting up an EEG experiment to look at the contribution of attention and predictability on predictive coding measures in EEG. I also have a number of collaborations with other people on various topics.


I work at the Free University (VU) in Amsterdam where I perform research on visual perception, covering topics such as consciousness, attention, object categorization, figure-ground segregation, working memory and visual search. During my PhD I have used a combination of psychophysical methods, EEG and fMRI to determine the processing stages involved in conscious and unconscious vision. My first experiments focused on determining whether the initial sweep of cortical processing is consciously accessible, and which stages of information processing correlate with perception. Using a masking paradigm, I have shown that the brain detects stimuli during the first sweep of cortical processing, even when subjects are unaware of ever having processed these stimuli, culminating in a paper that is now highly cited in the literature. This and subsequent papers have shown that conscious experience emerges only when recurrent interactions take place between higher and lower cortical areas. Recently, I have further explored the extent and complexity of unconscious processing, extending my initial findings to show that the brain is not only able to detect stimuli outside of awareness, but that it is able to unconsciously extract highly complex information, such as the category of an object. After my PhD I have worked at Utrecht University as an assistant professor, and I am currently working as an assistant professor at the Free University (VU).

Research interests

I am interested in exploring the relationship between cortical processing and conscious vision and to what degree the experience of seeing depends on attention. Particularly, I am interested in tying functional aspects of vision, as for example feature binding and predictive coding, to experiential aspects of vision, such as surface and shape perception in order to determine the relationship between function and experience. Contiguously, I am interested in determining to what degree conscious vision exists without selective attention as modulatory or causal force. Recently, I am expanding these questions into the domain of visual working memory.


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Recent publications

N Bault, JJ Fahrenfort, B Pelloux, KR Ridderinkhof & F van Winden (2017) An affective social tie mechanism: Theory, evidence, and implications. Journal of Economic Psychology 61, 152-175
E Ort, JJ Fahrenfort & CNL Olivers (2017) Lack of free choice reveals the cost of having to search for more than one object. Psychological science 28 (8), 1137-1147
JJ Fahrenfort, A Grubert, CNL Olivers & M Eimer (2017) Multivariate EEG analyses support high-resolution tracking of feature-based attentional selection. Scientific Reports 7 (1), 1886
JJ Fahrenfort, J van Leeuwen, CNL Olivers & H Hogendoorn (2017) Perceptual integration without conscious access. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201617268
A Grubert, JJ Fahrenfort, CNL Olivers & M Eimer (2017) Rapid top-down control over template-guided attention shifts to multiple objects. Neuroimage 146, 843-858
JJ Fahrenfort, J van Leeuwen, J Foster, E Awh & CNL Olivers (2017) Working memory implements distinct maintenance mechanisms depending on task goals. bioRxiv, 162537
E Gunseli, J Fahrenfort, K Daoultzis, M Meeter & C Olivers (2015) The Loss of Information from Visual Working Memory depends on Retro-Cue Reliability.. Journal of vision 15 (12), 91-91
AM van Loon, JJ Fahrenfort, B van der Velde, PB Lirk, NCC Vulink & ... (2015) NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine distorts object recognition by reducing feedback to early visual cortex. Cerebral Cortex 26 (5), 1986-1996
C Van Den Boomen, JJ Fahrenfort, TM Snijders & C Kemner (2015) Segmentation precedes face categorization under suboptimal conditions. Frontiers in psychology 6
N Bault, B Pelloux, JJ Fahrenfort, KR Ridderinkhof & F van Winden (2014) Neural dynamics of social tie formation in economic decision-making. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience 10 (6), 877-884
ARE Vandenbroucke, JJ Fahrenfort, JDI Meuwese, HS Scholte & ... (2014) Prior knowledge about objects determines neural color representation in human visual cortex. Cerebral cortex 26 (4), 1401-1408
JDI Meuwese, AM van Loon, VAF Lamme & JJ Fahrenfort (2014) The subjective experience of object recognition: comparing metacognition for object detection and object categorization. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 76 (4), 1057-1068
ARE Vandenbroucke, IG Sligte, AB Barrett, AK Seth, JJ Fahrenfort & ... (2014) Accurate metacognition for visual sensory memory representations. Psychological science 25 (4), 861-873
ARE Vandenbroucke, JJ Fahrenfort, IG Sligte & VAF Lamme (2013) Seeing without Knowing: Neural Signatures of Perceptual Inference in the Absence of Report. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
JJ Fahrenfort, TM Snijders, K Heinen, S van Gaal, HS Scholte & ... (2012) Neuronal integration in visual cortex elevates face category tuning to conscious face perception. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (52), 21504-21509
JJ Fahrenfort & S van Gaal (2012) Responses in the Fusiform Face Area do not cause conscious face perception.
ARE Vandenbroucke, IG Sligte, JJ Fahrenfort, KB Ambroziak & VAF Lamme (2012) Non-attended representations are perceptual rather than unconscious in nature. PLoS One 7 (11), e50042
JJ Fahrenfort & VAF Lamme (2012) A true science of consciousness explains phenomenology: comment on Cohen and Dennett. Trends in cognitive sciences 16 (3), 138-139
JJ Fahrenfort, F Van Winden, B Pelloux, M Stallen & KR Ridderinkhof (2012) Neural correlates of dynamically evolving interpersonal ties predict prosocial behavior. Frontiers in neuroscience 6
S Van Gaal, VAF Lamme, JJ Fahrenfort & KR Ridderinkhof (2011) Dissociable brain mechanisms underlying the conscious and unconscious control of behavior. Journal of cognitive neuroscience 23 (1), 91-105

View full list of publications on Google Scholar