Spatial CognitionSpatial cognition will continue to be a major focus of activity in ICBS. The conference on spatial cognition, that was held in the last spring, gave a good representation of this work at Berkeley, including extended presentations by Profs. Jacobs, D'Esposito, Robertson, Hafter, Banks, Slobin, and Feldman.
The current projects on spatial cognition fall under three broad headings -- perceptual, linguistic, and neuroscientific. The perceptual component includes research by Prof. Hafter (Psychology) on spatial hearing and its crossmodal integration with visual information; by Profs. Palmer (Psychology) and Malik (Computer Science) on perceptual organization and grouping in vision; by Prof. Banks (Optometry) on the perception of directional heading during locomotion; and by Prof. Robertson (Psychology) on the integrative function of spatial aspects of attention. The linguistic component includes research by Prof. Dan Slobin (Psychology) on the description of spatial events using verbs of motion in spoken language and sign language, and by Profs. Lakoff (Linguistics), Feldman (Computer Science), and Sweetser (Linguistics) on the representation, use, and acquisition of spatial descriptions, with an emphasis on constructing integrative connectionist models of these phenomena. The neuroscientific component concerns research on the involvement of various brain regions on spatial behavior, including that by Prof. Jacobs (Psychology) on the role of the hippocampus in foraging and food caching in rodents, by Prof. Robertson (Psychology) on parietal lobes involvement in controlling spatial attention in humans, by Prof. Dï¿½Esposito (Neuroscience) on the role of the temporal lobes in memory for buildings and place information, and by Profs. Shimamura and Knight (Psychology) on frontal lobe activity in spatial aspects of human working memory.
One of the future directions of ICBS research on spatial cognition will be integration across these three approaches. Prof. Hafter, for example, is examining the neural cite of binaural adaptation in sound localization. Profs. Palmer, Malik, Robertson, and D'Esposito plan to join forces to look for the brain locus of perceptual organization and grouping using neurological patients and brain imaging studies. Another likely direction of integration is combining perceptual and linguistic approaches, seeking the perceptual representation and processing that underlies linguistic expression of spatial relations and motion events. Some work on this problem has already been begun by Profs. Lakoff and Feldman and their student, Terry Regier, in a model of the acquisition of spatial prepositions (e.g., above, below, left, right, on, next to) in a variety of languages, but further work is needed. Brain imaging studies of linguistic processes underlying spatial descriptions would ideally be undertaken as well, but this seems too far beyond the scope of current technology to be feasible in the near future.