Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Psychology Department
Vanderbilt University
301 Wilson Hall
111 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37240

Office: Wilson Hall, Room 531
Telephone: 615-322-1780
Fax: 615-343-8449

Email: frank.tong [at]

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

The goal of my research is to investigate, characterize, and model the neural mechanisms that mediate human visual perception and cognition. What allows us to detect the presence of a clump of weeds in a lawn, to recognize an animal hiding behind a bush, or to remember the precise hue and texture of an ocean surface during sunset? A core assumption in my work is that early visual representations have a powerful but underappreciated role in higher cognitive operations, and that higher-level mechanisms of attention and working memory serve to modulate processing at early visual sites to select and maintain task-relevant visual information. Characterizing and modeling the interplay between early visual representations and higher order representations represents a long-term goal of this work.

Our work relies on behavioral and psychophysical methods, high-resolution fMRI, and advanced computational approaches for both data analysis and modeling. My lab has developed novel methods for decoding feature-selective responses from patterns of fMRI activity in the human visual cortex (Kamitani & Tong, Nature Neuroscience, 2005; Current Biology, 2006; Tong & Pratte, Annual Review of Psychology, 2012), and shown how these approaches can be used to characterize the neural bases of visual working memory (Harrison & Tong, Nature, 2009; Pratte et al., 2014) and object-based attentional selection (Pratte et al., J Neurophysiology, 2013; Cohen & Tong, Cerebral Cortex, 2015). In ongoing work, we are developing, training, and testing deep convolutional neural networks as potential models for understanding the neural bases of human visual processing. To find out more about our lab research projects, click here.


- Psy 3760, Mind and Brain (aka Cognitive Neuroscience)
- Psy 3765, Social Cognition and Neuroscience
- Psy 3780, The Visual System

Quick Bio

I grew up in Toronto Canada. I received my B.S. in Psychology at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada working with Barrie Frost, and my Ph.D. at Harvard University working with Ken Nakayama and Nancy Kanwisher. I worked with Steve Engel at UCLA for a year as a McDonnell-Pew post-doctoral fellow before starting my position as an assistant professor at Princeton University in 2000. My lab and I moved to Vanderbilt University in Fall 2004, where I am a Professor of Psychology. Awards and honors include the McDonnell-Pew Training Fellowship (1999), Robert K. Root Preceptorship, Princeton (2003), Scientific American Top 50 Award (2004), Young Investigator Award from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (2006), Chancellor's Award for Research, Vanderbilt (2008), Young Investigator Award from the Vision Sciences Society (2009), and the Troland Research Award in Psychology from the National Academy of Sciences. I have served as a board member of the Vision Sciences Society (2012-2016) and on the editorial committee of the Annual Review of Psychology (2013-2017).