Natalia Zaretskaya is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Graz, Austria. She conducts research and teaches several bachelor-level courses in psychology. Before moving to Graz she worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging of the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston, and at the Werner Reichard Center for Integrative Neuroscience of the University of Tuebingen, Germany. She conducted research on visual and cognitive neuroscience as well as on the possibilities and limits of imaging the human brain activity. Natalia received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Tuebingen, Germany and a diploma in Psychology from the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow. Natalia also holds an MA degree in Psychological Counselling.
Natalia’s research focuses on the neural mechanisms of conscious visual experience and their interaction with other aspects of cognition, such as Gestalt perception and attention. To study these processes she uses special types of visual illusions called bistable (or “ambiguous”) stimuli. Such stimuli contain ambiguous visual information with two possible perceptual interpretations. When an observer looks at them, his or her subjective impression to switches between the two interpretations, although nothing changes on the screen. Bistable stimuli thus allow dissociating physical stimulation from purely subjective, conscious visual impressions and represent a great tool for studying the properties and neural bases of the content of consciousness. In her research, Natalia combines ambiguous stimuli with a range of modern cognitive neuroscience methods, primarily functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), and electroencephalography (EEG), as well as with non-invasive brain stimulation. She uses fMRI and EEG to detect brain activity related to changing subjective content. She then applies TMS to test how manipulating brain activity affects the subjective impression of the ambiguous stimuli. More recently, Natalia has also become interested in the emerging possibility of high-resolution fMRI at ultrahigh magnetic field and its potential to provide new insights into the neural mechanism of higher-level vision at a fine spatial scale. She is also interested in the methodological aspects of the structural and functional high-resolution MRI. Finally, since conscious visual perception and attention are closely related, together with collaborators at the University of Tubingen she is currently exploring how the perception of ambiguous stimuli changes in patients with attention disorders.