Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences
University of California at Berkeley
3210 Tolman Hall MC 1650
Berkeley, CA 94720-1650
Administration support for the Institute is provided by the staff of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. See the administration page for help and information.
All talks are in 5101 Tolman Hall, 11am-12:30pm.
Presenter: Maurice Smith, Harvard University
Title: Variability, reference frames, and generalization in motor learning
The ability to control movement is perhaps the central function of the nervous system, and the ability to optimize this control through learning can be absolutely essential for successful movement. The human motor system, in particular, has a remarkable capacity for adaptive control. I will present some recent insights into the mechanisms by which humans achieve this adaptive control during voluntary movement. We will begin by looking at recent work on the mechanisms for spatial representations in motor learning and the generalization of learning to untrained conditions. We will then focus on the relationship between motor variability and learning, showing how estimates of motor variability evolve during exposure to a novel environment, and how both inter-individual and task-related differences in learning ability are related to the structure of motor output variability. We will conclude by demonstrating how the structure of motor output variability can be adaptively reshaped to optimize learning ability.
Presenter: Michael Anderson, Franklin & Marshall College
Title: Neural reuse and componentiality in the functional structure of the brain
Abstract: In this talk I will outline evidence suggesting that individual regions of the brain are used and reused to support multiple cognitive functions across diverse task categories; that each part of the brain is a member of multiple functional coalitions; and that the brain's functional components are not the stable neural sub-assemblies envisioned by Simon, but are rather dynamically constructed--something I'm calling Transiently Assembled Local Neural Sub-systems (TALoNS). The evidence comes both from data-mining thousands of fMRI studies, and also from single-cell studies of non-human animals. I'll end the talk with some suggestions for reforming some of the empirical and interpretive practices in cognitive neuroscience to better capture the underlying functional structure of the brain.
Presenter: Boaz Keysar, University of Chicago
Title: Making Decisions in a Foreign Language
Abstract: Hundreds of millions of people live and work while using a language that is not their native tongue. How does this affect the way they make decisions? Anyone using a foreign language knows it is not easy. You would expect then, that such difficulty would impair decision-making. We show that the opposite is often true. We argue that a foreign language provides psychological distance, thereby allowing people to make more deliberate and systematic decisions; they are less biased. For example, a foreign tongue distances the user from an emotional reaction, thereby reducing or eliminating a variety of judgmental biases. But we also show that when choice could benefit from emotions, a foreign tongue reduces such benefit. Our discoveries add a new theoretical perspective to considerations of language and thought which are relevant to social policy, as well as individual decision-making.
Presenter: David Whitney, University of California, Berkeley
Title: The bottleneck of conscious vision
Abstract: Everyday experience gives us the impression that our visual world is rich, accurate, and seamless. Objects in our peripheral vision might seem somewhat blurry, but we nonetheless think we know what they are. However, this intuition is misleading. At any given time in natural scenes, most of the objects we see are in the visual periphery, and these peripheral objects are crowded-blocked from recognition and scrutiny-because of clutter. Outside the center of our gaze, crowding imposes a fundamental bottleneck on our ability to consciously recognize individual objects. Here, I will present three sets of behavioral studies on the mechanism of crowding, the scope of its impact on perception, and its development from infancy. I will also present fMRI results on a mechanism of attention operating in the human pulvinar that allows us to selectively ignore visual clutter, a mechanism that may mitigate the deleterious effects of crowding. Together, our results help elucidate crowding as one of the most essential limits of spatial vision, one that defines the spatial resolution of conscious vision and mediates our subjective experience of the visual world.
Presenter: Keith Johnson, University of California, Berkeley
Presenter: Dom Massaro, University of California, Santa Cruz
Title: Technology Assisted Reading Acquisition (TARA): Children Acquiring Literacy Naturally
Abstract: Society faces increasing challenges in the ability to support the infrastructure of a literate world. Virtual teachers, the internet, and the ceaseless access to information hold promise. To date, however, these potential solutions do not consider research in cognitive science and the potential of the learning brain. As background, the talk reviews our previous research, technology, and applications in speech perception and language learning using our computer-animated face, Baldi. Included is a project to enhance the ability of hearing-challenged and deaf persons to understand conversational speech in face-to-face spoken interactions. The talk offers the possibility of how universal literacy can be achieved with minimal cost, allowing a revolutionary new age that challenges the survival of our educational institutions and society as we know them. It questions the commonly held belief that written language requires formal instruction and schooling whereas spoken language is seamlessly acquired from birth onward by natural interactions with persons who talk. The objectives are to prototype physical systems that exploit developments in behavioral science and technology to a) automatically recognize speech, objects, and actions and b) to display corresponding written descriptions. The goal is to create an interactive system TARA to allow infants, toddlers, and preschool children to acquire literacy naturally.
Presenter: Mary Hegarty, University of California, Santa Barbara
Title: Spatial Thinking
Presenter: Rick Dale, University of California, Merced
Title: A "Centipede's' Dilemma" in Human Linguistic Interaction
Abstract: We describe a "centipede's dilemma" that faces the sciences of human interaction. Research on human interaction has been involved in extensive theoretical debate, though the vast majority of research tends to focus on a small set of human behaviors, cognitive processes, and interactive contexts. The problem is that naturalistic human interaction must integrate all of these factors simultaneously, and grander theoretical mitigation cannot come only from focused experimental or computational agendas. We look to dynamical systems theory as a framework for thinking about how these multiple behaviors, processes, and contexts can be integrated into a broader account of human interaction. By introducing and utilizing basic concepts of self-organization and synergy, we showcase a series of experiments that shows how human interaction is flexible, adaptive, and structures itself incrementally during unfolding interactive tasks, such as conversation, or more focused goal-based contexts. We end on acknowledging that dynamical systems accounts are very short on concrete models, and we briefly describe ways that theoretical frameworks could be integrated, rather than endlessly disputed, in order to achieve some success on the centipede's dilemma of human interaction.
Presenter: Steve Small, University of California, Irvine
Title: "Perceiving Actions and Understanding Language: The Role (or Not) of Simulation"
Abstract: The milieu exterieur and the milieu interieur of Claude Bernard have a modern relevance to research in brain imaging. In particular, we interpret these as analogous to ecological context (the external environment), on one hand, and neural context (neuronal interactions) on the other. In this talk, we discuss the roles of ecological and neural context in the investigation of the neurobiology of human language. People understand language quickly and effortlessly, an experience that reflects the operation of powerful adaptive mechanisms that work to reduce the degrees of uncertainty during processing of an incoming speech signal. Visual observation of the motor behaviors of the speaker represents one set of important disambiguating factors for understanding speech and language. We have proposed that action observation by listeners, specifically observable speech-associated mouth movements and hand gestures, plays an important role in this process. The neural interactions involved in processing this information involve the premotor cortex, the inferior parietal lobule, and the superior temporal gyrus. These regions and the neural connections among them comprise a human system for observation-execution matching that appears to have a phylogenetic basis in the "mirror neuron" system of the macaque. There is some controversy about the extent to which this system operates by covert simulation of perceived action. In this talk, we present data from several studies of audiovisual language comprehension that address the issues. First we discuss the role of action understanding in speech perception, and show how it aids phonological disambiguation across environmental and contextual variation, and that the motor cortex plays a fundamental role in the process. Next, we discuss the role of action understanding in higher order language comprehension. Finally, we present data directly addressing the putative role of motor simulation in comprehension. We conclude that the process of understanding language involves multimodal sensory and motor processing, but perhaps not simulation per se, and that the overall process comprises a set of context-dependent distributed circuits for comprehension.
Presenter: Ruth Kimchi, University of Haifa
Title: Irving Rock Memorial Lecture: Perceptual Organization and Visual Attention
Abstract: Perceptual organization - the processes structuring visual information into coherent units - and visual attention - the processes by which some visual information in a scene is selected - are crucial for the perception of our visual environment and to visuomotor behavior. Recent research points to important relations between attentional and organizational processes. In this talk I will focus on two aspects of this relationship. The first addresses the question of whether perceptual organization can take place without attention. I will present findings demonstrating that some forms of grouping and figure-ground segmentation can occur without attention, whereas others require controlled attentional processing, depending on the processes involved and the conditions prevailing for each process. The second issue addresses the question of whether perceptual organization can affect the automatic deployment of attention. I will present findings showing that the mere organization of some elements in the visual field by Gestalt factors into a coherent perceptual unit (an 'object'), with no abrupt onset or any other unique transient, can capture attention automatically in a stimulus-driven manner. Taken together, these findings demonstrate the multifaceted, interactive relations between perceptual organization and visual attention.
How do you refer to your mother's older sister?
Terry Regier and Charles Kemp find human kinship systems are simple and informative
Len Talmy receives Gutenberg Research Award
The first time this prestigious award has been given to a cognitive scientist.
Tania Lombrozo receives the Janet Taylor Spence Award
A significant early career award from the Association for Psychological Science.
What do babies think?
Alison Gopnik gives a presentation at TED.
Neurotechnology prize for Jose Carmena
Carmena received the New York Academy of Scienes Aspen Brain Forum Prize in Neurotechnology
Forget Mozart, Try Kant.
Alison Gopnik on the inquiring baby.
Jerry Feldman awarded the Berkeley Citation
Tribute for leadership in promoting interdisciplinary research and opportunities for study in computer science.
The Interpretation of Dreams, 2010
Jack Gallant uses fMRI to take a peek at what's on your mind
New Advances in Brain-Machine Interface Technology
Jose Carmena and Karunesh Ganguly demonstrate that the brain can consolidate a neural representation for long-term prosthetic control
Conference on Neurocognitive Development, July 12-14, 2009
Conference proceedings available on-line.
George Lakoff named Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor
Professorship in Linguistics and Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies for 2009-13
Fillmore FEST: Conference in honor of Charles Fillmore, July 31 - Aug 2
Celebrate Chuck's 80th birthday at Berkeley during this special meeting.
The Mental Navigator
Alison Gopnik's new book, "The Philisophical Baby" is discussed in the Boston Globe and SF Chronicle
Archived Files from past ICBS Seminars and Workshops
Click for links to materials
Berkeley Cognitive Science Undergraduates to Host Conference
First annual California Cognitive Science Conference on April 25
Darwin Day Celebrated at ICBS
Webcasts from the workshop, "Evolution in the Cognitive Sciences"
Alison Gopnik offers her ideas for revolutionizing undergraduate education.
In a Slate commentary, Gopnik suggests how to create "scientists in the dorm".
A Personal Experience with Synesthesia
Sherri Roush discusses how sounds make her skin tingle-- literally.
Alison Gopnik sounds off in Slate on mirror neurons.
Rea2007 essay on, "What the myth of mirror neurons gets wrong about the human brain."
Paul Kay joins discussion in NY Times on how language influences thought
Science Times article discusses new views on an old debate.
Art Shimamura awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship
Fellowship to support his efforts on a new book taking a neurocognitive approach to the psychology of art and aesthetics.
Conference on Religion and Cognitive Science, Jan 16-18
Hosted by The Graduate Theological Union and the Cognitive Science Program at UC Berkeley
George Lakoff to receive inaugural Giulio Preti Prize
The Regional Council of Tuscany honors Lakoff's contributions in the study of Science and Democracy.
Steve Palmer discusses the science of aesthetics in a presentation at Google.
Updated web materials for Jerry Feldman's book, 'From Molecule to Metaphor: A Neural Theory of Language'.
Check out recent Updates, Teaching Tips, and a Readers' Roadmap- a remarkable graphical guide to each chapter produced by John Torous, a recent student in CogSci 110 at Berkeley.
Looking back into the future.
Eve Sweetser's cross-cultural research on how we speak about time.
How do People Make Predictions?
New ICBS Member Tom Griffiths puts Bayes rule to the test
Linguistic Modulation of Color Perception Differs for the Left and Right Cerebral Hemispheres.
ICBS members Kay and Ivry use neuropsychological methods to revisit the Whorf hypothesis
Alva Noe brings the brain and body together in his new book.
Conversation with Alva Noe on the just published, "Action in Perception"
LEONARDO review of recent Synesthesia Conference co-hosted by ICBS
Review of the The Fourth Annual National Conference of the American Synesthesia Association, Inc.
"What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?"
ICBS member Alison Gopnik and other scientists consider unsolvable problems
George Lakoff of Linguistics and ICBS on the Language of Politics
UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics.