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Seminar: 11/13 - Randy O'Reilly

11:00 to 12:30 PM      at:  Tolman 5101

University of Colorado
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
"From Spikes to Object Recognition and Beyond: Building an Embodied Brain."

One of the great unsolved questions in our field is how the human brain, and simulations thereof, can achieve the kind of common-sense understanding that is widely believed to be essential for robust intelligence.  Many have argued that embodiment is important for developing common-sense understanding, but exactly how this occurs at a mechanistic level remains unclear.  In the process of building an embodied cognitive agent that learns from experience in a virtual environment, my colleagues and I have developed several insights into 
this process.   First, embodiment provides access to a rich, continuous source of training signals that, in conjunction with the proper neural structures, naturally support the learning of complex sensory-motor abilities.  Second, there is an intriguing developmental cascade of learning, where initial learning to fixate (foveate) a target enables subsequent learning to reach for that target, and also to recognize it within a cluttered visual environment. Finally, there 
are important functional differences in the learning mechanisms required for different brain areas and associated domains, which converge well with bottom-up biological data, including that on spike- timing dependent plasticity (STDP).