Steven Luck, Ph.D.

 Steven   Luck, Ph.D.


  • Professor
  • Psychology

Basic and Translational Cognitive Neuroscience

Research Summary

Steve Luck received a B.A. in Psychology from Reed College in 1986, followed by a Ph.D. in Neurosciences from UCSD in 1993. Beginning with his undergraduate thesis and continuing through his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Luck’s research focused on using the event-related potential (ERP) technique to study the role of attention in vision and in higher cognitive processes. He also spent time during this period working with macaque monkeys at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center and the National Institutes of Health, performing psychophysical testing and single-unit recording. After a brief postdoc at UCSD, Dr. Luck joined the faculty of the Psychology Department at the University of Iowa in 1994, where he expanded his research to include psychophysical studies of visual working memory and translational studies of cognitive dysfunction in psychiatric and neurological populations.  

In 2006, Dr. Luck moved to the UC-Davis Center for Mind & Brain, with an academic appointment in the Department of Psychology.  He is now the director of this center.  Dr. Luck’s lab currently focuses on three interrelated areas: a) basic mechanisms of attention and working memory in healthy young adults; b) dysfunction of cognition in psychiatric and neurological disorders; and c) development and dissemination of ERP methods.  The work on ERP methods has included the publication of a book (An Introduction to the Event-Related Potential Technique,, organizing and running a 10-day NIH-funded summer workshop on ERPs each summer (the UC-Davis ERP Boot Camp,, and the development of an open source software package for ERP data analysis (ERPLAB Toolbox,

Dr. Luck has been very active in the training of graduate students and postdocs over the years, and several of his trainees have gone on to faculty positions at major research universities. In his training efforts, Dr. Luck stresses the importance of understanding both the cognitive and neural aspects of brain function at a deep level, with the ultimate goal of understanding how neural circuits give rise to cognitive function.

Select Publications

Bacigalupo, F., & Luck, S. J. (2015). The allocation of attention and working memory in visual crowding. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27, 1180-1193.

Gaspelin, N., Leonard, C. J., & Luck, S. J. (2015). Direct Evidence for Active Suppression of Salient-but-Irrelevant Sensory Inputs. Psychological Science, 26, 1740-1750.

Miller, C. E., Luck, S. J., & Shapiro, K. L. (2015). Electrophysiological measurement of the effect of inter-stimulus competition on early cortical stages of human vision. NeuroImage, 105, 229-237.

Luck, S. J. (2014). An Introduction to the Event-Related Potential Technique, Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Luck, S.J., McClenon, C., Beck, V.M., Hollingworth, A., Leonard, C.J., Hahn, B., Robinson, B.M., & Gold, J.M. (2014). Hyperfocusing in schizophrenia: Evidence from interactions between working memory and eye movements. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123, 783-795.

Johnson, M. K., McMahon, R. P., Robinson, B. M., Harvey, A. N., Hahn, B., Leonard, C. J., Luck, S. J., & Gold, J. M. (2013). The relationship between working memory capacity and broad measures of cognitive ability in healthy adults and people with schizophrenia. Neuropsychology, 27, 220-229.

Luck, S. J., & Vogel, E. K. (2013). Visual Working Memory Capacity: From Psychophysics and Neurobiology to Individual Differences. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17, 391-400.

Sawaki, R., Geng, J. J., & Luck, S. J. (2012). A common neural mechanism for preventing and terminating the allocation of attention. Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 10725-10736.

Sawaki, R., & Luck, S. J. (2010). Capture versus suppression of attention by salient singletons: Electrophysiological evidence for an automatic attend-to-me signal. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72, 1455-1470.

Zhang, W., & Luck, S. J. (2008). Discrete fixed-resolution representations in visual working memory. Nature, 453, 233-235.


Director, Center for Mind & Brain