Patrick Cavanagh received a degree in Engineering from McGill University in 1968. An interest in artificial intelligence led to a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Carnegie-Mellon in 1972. He taught at the Université de Montréal in Psychology until 1989 and was a professor of Psychology at Harvard. Along with Ken Nakayama, he founded the Vision Sciences Laboratory at Harvard in 1990. In 2007 he accepted a Chaire d’Excellence at the Université Paris Descartes. In 2015 he became a Distinguished Research Professor at Dartmouth College.
Dr. Cavanagh is a leader in research in visual neuroscience and perception, specifically in motion perception, spatial vision, color vision, attentional processes, object recognition and the links between art and brain function. His work on attention has opened up new directions in this active field. His report that motion distorts perceived position brought new interest to the question of the representation of position in the visual system. In his earlier work, he discovered a size and position invariant transform for visual recognition. He documented the parallel analysis of common shape descriptors in color and luminance pathways and the paradoxical slowing of motion for chromatic stimuli. His research is currently focused on attention in normal and clinical populations. He has made many discoveries in these areas and contributed fundamentally to the methods of evaluation of attentional function. He is also exploring the contribution of various features such as shadow, color, motion, and texture to representations of visual form and these experiments led to his interest in art as a source of data for neuroscience, opening a new line of scientific analysis of art.