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Cognitive Science Colloqium

Thursdays 15:30 to 17:00 - Building 57, Room 508

Wintersemester 2017-2018

November 30, 2017

Speaker: Dr. Jon Andoni Duñabetia (Basque Center on Cognition - Spain, invited by Thomas lachmann)

Topic: The emotional impact of learning a foreign language

Abstract: Native languages are acquired in emotionally rich contexts, while foreign languages are typically acquired in emotionally neutral academic environments. As a consequence of this difference, it has been suggested that bilinguals’ emotional reactivity in foreign language contexts is reduced as compared to native language contexts. In this talk I will present different studies that demonstrate how pervasive foreign language effects can be and how they can alter seemingly automatic responses that are of clear importance in our daily life. I will also discuss some of the limits of these effects and I'll provide some ideas to counteract these effects by adopting new educational approaches in foreign language teaching.


December 14, 2017

Speaker: Dr. Peter Moors (Leuven University - Belgium, invited by Sven Panis)




January 18, 2018

Speaker: Dr. Christoph Scheepers (Glasgow University - UK, invited by Leigh Fernandez)

Topic: Pupillometric work on emotional resonance in L1 vs. L2



February 01, 2018

Speaker: Dr. Evan Kidd (MPI for Psycholinguistics - Australia National University, invited by Shanley Allen)




February 08, 2018

Speaker: Dr. Sonja Kotz (Maastricht University - Netherland, invited by Patricia Wesseling)

Topic: Multimodal emotional speech perception 




Sommersemester 2017

April 27, 2017

Speaker: Radha Nila Meghanathan (Leuven University, invited by Thomas lachmann)

Topic: Memory accumulation across sequential eye movements and related electrical brain activity

Abstract: Visual short term memory for items presented at fixation has been studied extensively informing us about memory capacity for features and objects, the fidelity of accumulated memory and the neural correlates of memory load. However, during free viewing, information is accumulated in working memory across sequences of fixations and saccades. We attempted to understand accumulation of memory across sequential eye movements. We proposed that memory load would be reflected during fixation intervals in electrical brain activity (EEG). To find this EEG correlate of memory accumulation, we conducted a combined multiple target visual search- change detection experiment with simultaneous eye movement and EEG recording. Participants were asked to search for and memorize the orientations of 3, 4 or 5 targets in a visual search display in order to perform a subsequent change detection task where one of the targets changed orientation in half of the cases. We studied eye movement properties, pupil size, fixation related brain potentials and EEG of participants during the task. In my talk, I present the analyses we performed, the obstacles we faced there in and the solutions we found, the results that followed, and also discuss our new understanding of working memory and information accumulation.


May 11, 2017

Speaker: Katherine Messenger (Warwick University, invited by Shanley Allen)

Topic: The persistence of priming: Exploring long-lasting syntactic priming effects in children and adults

Abstract: Syntactic priming, the unconscious repetition of syntactic structure across speakers and utterances, has been a key method in demonstrating the psychological reality of abstract syntactic representations that adults recruit in their language processing. Syntactic priming has therefore been applied to test children's knowledge of syntactic structures but more recently it has been framed as a mechanism that can also explain how these structures are acquired. This theory has been instantiated in computational models but support from behavioural evidence is still needed. In this talk I will present research investigating whether syntactic priming effects in children (and adults) are indicative of language learning.


May 18, 2017

Speaker: Bertram Opitz (Surrey University - UK, invited by Thomas Lachmann)

Topic: The mysteries of second language acquisition: a neuroscience perspective

Abstract: One of the most intense debates in second language acquisition regards the critical period hypothesis. This hypothesis claims that there is a critical period during someone's development that enables the acquisition of any human language. Based on research utilising an artificial language learning paradigm I will demonstrate that the same cognitive processes and highly similar brain regions are involved in first and second language acquisition, at least in the areas of the acquisition of syntax, orthography and emotional semantics. I will also demonstrate that cognitive and environmental constraints of the learning process determine individual differences in second language learning.


June 08, 2017

Speaker: Yaïr Pinto (Amsterdam University, invited by Thomas Schimidt)

Topic: What can permanent and temporary split-brain teach us about conscious unity?

Abstract: A healthy human brain only creates one conscious agent. In other words, under normal circumstances consciousness is unified. However, the brain is made up of many, semi-independent modules. So how is this conscious unity possible? Current leading consciousness theories differ on the answer to this question, but intuitively, it seems that informational integration between modules is the key. In the current talk, I will present data that challenges this intuition, and suggests that even without massive communication between modules conscious unity can persist. I will discuss why our intuition may be mistaken, and I will present alternative explanations of conscious unity.


June 22, 2017

Speaker: Norbert Jaušovec (Maribor University - Slovenia, invited by Saskia Jaarsveld)

Topic: Increasing intelligence

Abstract: The “Nürnberger Trichter” – a magic funnel used to pour knowledge, expertise and wisdom into students – demonstrates that the idea of effortless learning and the power of intelligence was “cool” even 500 years ago. Today noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS), which involves transcranial direct and alternating current stimulation (tDCS and tACS), as well as random noise (tRNS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), could be regarded as a contemporary replacement for the magic funnel. They represent and extension to the more classical  methods for cognitive enhancement, such as behavioral training and computer games. On the other hand, there is still a number of alternative approaches that can affect cognitive function. Among the most prominent are: nutrition, drugs, exercise, meditation-related reduction in psychological stress and neurofeedback. The presentation will provide a concise overview of methods claiming to improve cognitive functioning – psychological constructs such as intelligence and working memory. Discussed will be changes in behavior and brain activation patterns observed with the electroencephalogram (EEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Examined will be the usefulness of brain training for the man/woman in the street, as well as an additional device that can verify and bring causation into the relations between brain activity and cognition. Modulating brain plasticity and by that changing network dynamics crucial for intelligent behavior can be a powerful research tool that can elucidate the neurobiological background of intelligence, working memory and other psychological constructs.


June 29, 2017

Speaker: Grégory Simon (Caen Basse-Normandie  University - France, invited by Thomas Lachmann)

Topic: Inhibition: a key factor for the cognitive development

Abstract: In the Laboratory for the Psychology of Child Development and Education (LaPsyDÉ - https://www.lapsyde.com/), our research projects mostly focus on the key role of inhibition processing during cognitive development. After presenting our major works in this field, I will focus more precisely on applied results from both behavioral and imaging (MRI, ERPs) assessments that deal with reading acquisition.





WS 2016/2017

October 27,  2016

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Petra Hendricks (invited by Prof. Allen and Frau Azpiroz)

Topic: Production may precede comprehension in children’s development of language

Abstract: It is generally assumed that comprehension precedes production in children’s development of language (e.g., Clark, 2003). That is, children first learn to comprehend a particular linguistic form and only later learn how this linguistic form must be used. However, several studies have found that, for some linguistic forms, adult-like production seems to be ahead of adult-like comprehension. For example, English and Dutch 4-year-olds know when to use a personal pronoun (him) and when to use a reflexive pronoun (himself), but make errors in their comprehension of personal pronouns until age 6 or even later (de Villiers, Cahillane & Altreuter, 2006; Spenader, Smits & Hendriks, 2009). Such production/comprehension asymmetries present a challenge to most linguistic theories. I will discuss several of these asymmetries and present a possible explanation for the existence of these asymmetries in terms of a constraint-based direction-sensitive grammar.


November 03, 2016

Speaker: Dr. Jan Hirtz (TU Kaiserslautern) (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: Two-photon imaging of neuronal activity in mouse neocortex


November 10, 2016

Speaker: Dr. Diana Peppoloni (University of Siena) (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: Learning Complexity of English Language for Dyslexics: a Proposal for a Multisensory and Interactive Approach

Abstract: English knowledge constitutes a basic requirement for undergraduates to complete their academic career and move into the world of work. This goal is difficult to achieve for dyslexic students, since dyslexia is a specific learning disease that affects not only literacy skills in students’ first language, but also foreign language learning. This is even more evident when the target language has an opaque orthography, such as the English one. For this reason, it is required that educational research identifies new teaching-learning strategies which, through personalized pathways, could enhance the potential of all students to promote their educational success. If not all students learn in the same way, then we have to interpret their cognitive style to maximize their performances.

Research results suggest that dyslexics prefer to learn in a multisensory, creative way; that’s why language lessons should integrate at the same time action and emotions. Complementarity between right and left brain hemisphere seems to be the key to enhance their learning process (GG-Hypothesis). The latest findings in the field of neurosciences give a new and robust scaffolding to our belief that drama activities boost language learning. Therefore, theatrical didactics seems to constitute the best suitable practice to convey linguistic knowledge to dyslexics. Involving many sensorial channels, it promotes the development of strong and persistent cortical and subcortical bindings, responsible for the storage both of linguistic and affective information. I will present in this talk, an original didactic method, conceived to overcome the most common problems related to the acquisition of oral skills in second language learning, based on theatrical didactics, in which “mind” and “body” are both fully involved as it happens in any real communication situation. Through a holistic approach, it aims at providing college dyslexic students with repeatable mechanisms of linguistic and communicative knowledge acquisition, which can be then put in place and reused in different learning opportunities, making this kind of learners self-confident and enabling them to build their own set of skills in an autonomous way.


November 24, 2016

Speaker: Dr. Huaiyong Zhao (Department of Psychology - TU Darmstadt) (invited by Prof. Ghose)

Topic: How do people steer a car to intercept a moving target:The constant target‑heading strategy.

Abstract: Successful interaction with moving targets in an environment is vital to human’s survival. Locomotor interception of a moving target is one of the interactions. Three strategies have been proposed for locomotor interception: in the pursuit strategy, the target is kept at the heading direction; in the constant target‑heading strategy, it is kept at a constant angle relative to the heading direction; in the constant bearing strategy, it is kept at a constant bearing angle relative to an allocentric reference axis. In my study, I examine how drivers steer a car to intercept a moving target in virtual environments. Steering in virtual environment does not have the spatial or temporal limitations in real environment. Moreover, virtual environment enables me to manipulate the availability of visual information. These advantages may help reveal the strategy used in locomotor interception. In this talk, I will present three experiments, and show participants’ interceptive steering in different environments. The results suggest that locomotor interception is better accounted for by the constant target‑heading strategy.


December 08, 2016

Speaker: Dr. Andrey R. Nikolaev  (Laboratory for Perceptual Dynamics, Brain & Cognition Research Unit, KU Leuven, Belgium)  (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

lTopic: EEG-eye movement co-registration: method and application to free viewing behavior

Abstract: Information about the surrounding space is visually sampled with saccadic eye movements. Eye movements are tightly coupled with brain activity which reflects the perceptual and cognitive processes. Recent advances in eye-tracking technology have allowed researchers to use eye movements as markers for segmentation of ongoing EEG activity into episodes relevant to sequential steps of information processing. Consequently, the simultaneous recording of EEG and eye movements has increasingly become popular in various fields of vision research. The co-registration of EEG and eye movements is particularly advantageous for the investigation of processes associated with free visual exploration of the environment. In my talk I’ll discuss methodological aspects of the EEG-eye movement co-registration in free viewing and will give examples of its application. Particularly, I’ll focus on the problem of overlapping effects on EEG of subsequent eye movements and will show the ways of its solution. Then, I’ll describe several studies from our laboratory which considered visual memory encoding, visual search, and saccade guidance. My talk will contribute to a better understanding of the range of research questions that can be approached by the co-registration, the requirements for experimentation, and methodological solutions for simultaneous EEG and eye movement recording and data processing.


December 12, 2017

Speaker: Dr. Sonja Eisenbeiss (Köln University)  (invited by Prof. Allen)

Topic: Studying Child Language in India

Abstract: In this talk, I will present initial results and new tools from cross-linguistic studies of Indian languages developed together with colleagues Pori Saikia (University of Essex), Benu Pareek (JNU, Delhi), and Ayesha Kidwai (JNU, Delhi). I will first present results of our studies on grammatical markers in Hindi and Assamese child language. Then, I will discuss new tools that we are currently developing for comparative studies on children´s and adults´use of grammatical markers in different regions of India. The focus of this discussion will be on the challenges of conducting cross-linguistic and comparative research in a culturally and linguistically diverse region.


January 19, 2017

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Alfred  Effenberg (Leibniz University Hannover) (invited by Dr. Schinauer)

Topic: Auditory Modulation of Multisensory Representations

Abstract: Motor learning is based on motor perception and emergent perceptual-motor representations. A lot of behavioral research is related to single perceptual modalities but during last two decades the contribution of multimodal perception on motor behavior was discovered more and more. A growing number of studies indicates an enhanced impact of multimodal stimuli on motor perception, motor control and motor learning in terms of better precision and higher reliability of the related actions. Our own research is dedicated to real world actions: It will be shown that kinematic real-time acoustics can be used (1) to enhance perceptual-motor representations as well as (2) to enhance the perceptual and motor performance and (3) to modulate the perception systematically by changing the kinematic-acoustic mapping stepwise.


January 26, 2017

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Stefan Koelsch (University in Bergen) (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: Brain correlates of music-evoked emotions

Abstract: Music is a universal feature of human societies, partly owing to its power to evoke strong emotions and influence moods. During the past decade, the investigation of the neural correlates of music-evoked emotions has been invaluable for the understanding of human emotion.

Functional neuroimaging studies on music and emotion show that music can modulate activity in brain structures that are known to be crucially involved in emotion, such as the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, hypothalamus, hippocampus, insula, cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex. The potential of music to modulate activity in these structures has important implications for the use of music in the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders.


February 02, 2017

Speaker: Dr. Katharina Nimz (Bielefeld University) (invited by Dr. Leigh Fernandez and Prof. Shanley Allen)

Topic: Second language speech learning: the case of vowel perception and production in L2 German

 Abstract: Learning to speak a foreign language is hard. When it comes to German vowels, L2 learners have to master various phonetic dimensions which most likely differ from those in their L1. For example, German differentiates between long, tense and short lax vowels, and it is crucial for an L2 learner to perceive and produce the difference between, for example, -Rate- (“instalment”) and -Ratte- (“rat”). It has been hypothesized that both Turkish and Polish learners have difficulties acquiring this difference, but – up until the present study – this has not been tested experimentally. By means of various production and perception experiments, we investigated whether and how learners have problems learning important acoustic dimensions such as duration and spectral features. Furthermore, we investigated the influence of orthography in second language speech learning. This factors has, as of recently, received considerable attention in the field, and the present study is the first to experimentally investigate the influence of orthographic markers in L2 German speech.


February  09, 2017

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Kielan Yarrow (City University London) (invited by Prof. Ghose)

Topic: Can classification videos reveal the information used to respond to an opponent’s tennis stroke?

Abstract: Experts are able to predict the outcome of their opponent’s next action (e.g. a tennis stroke) based on kinematic cues “read” from preparatory body movements. This ability has been revealed in occlusion experiments, which present sporting scenarios with different possible outcomes (e.g. a cross-court or down-the-line tennis return) but remove segments of video (e.g. by stopping the video at ball contact) in order to assess how behaviour is affected. Here, we instead used classification-image techniques to find out how participants discriminate sporting scenarios as they unfold.

We filmed tennis players serving and hitting forehands, each with two possible directions. These videos were presented to novices and club-level amateurs, running from 800ms before to 200ms after racquet-ball contact. During practice, participants reported shot direction under a time limit targeting 90% accuracy. Participants then viewed videos through Gaussian windows ("Bubbles") placed at random in the temporal (E1), spatial (E2) or spatiotemporal (E3) domains. Comparing Bubbles from correct and incorrect trials revealed the contribution of information from different regions toward a correct response.

Temporally, two regions supported accurate responding (from ~50 ms before ball contact to 100+ ms afterwards, and, for forehands, at around the time of swing initiation, ~300 ms before ball contact). Spatially, information was accrued from the ball trajectory and from the opponent’s head, perhaps reflecting their gaze direction. Spatiotemporal bubbles again highlighted ball trajectory information, but seemed susceptible to an attentional cuing artefact. Overall, there seems to be potential to help players improve by showing them from when/where they read information, but our results so far have been dominated by the information accrued from the ball trajectory, rather than earlier kinematic cues. This may reflect the competent, but not elite, standard of our tennis players. We are now analysing data from experiments that focus on the period before ball contact, and hope to present our preliminary findings from these newer experiments in order to promote discussion of collaborative follow-up work.

SS 2016

April 28, 2016

Speaker: Haaß-Talk: Mark R. Runco (University of Georgia, Athens, USA) (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: 10 Key Findingy from Creativity Research and Implications for Education, Business and Everyone

Abstract: Research on creativity is expanding at an unprecedented pace. Our understanding of creativity is growing, with a multitude of implications for education, business, and various other applied areas. This presentation points to a set of the more important findings from the recent research. It explores implications of each. The main points to be made include the following: (1) There are domain differences in creativity, though some evidence of universals as well, and some discussion of new domains (e.g., Technological Creativity). (2) The idea of brain localization no longer plays a large role in studies of creativity. Now the interest is in Systems. (3) It is not easy to study Intuition, but several creative methodologies confirm that Intuition can contribute to the creative process. (4) Problem finding is more important than problem solving, at least for many creative performances. (5) There are lifespan changes in creativity, including several slumps, both in childhood and adulthood, but it may be that these can be minimized. (6) Creativity does not depend on IQ or intelligence. In fact, there is often a “cost of expertise.” (7) One important indicator of creative potential is the capacity to generate and judge ideas, and ideas may be useful in every domain, though the idea itself may take different forms. (8) Settings and context have a huge impact on the fulfillment of creative potential and on the expression of creative ideas. There are several commonalities that apply to all levels–the home, the school, the organization, culture. (9) Paradoxes are good. They often stimulate creative thinking. (10) Dopamine has been related to creative potential, in a limited way, which does imply a genetic basis for creativity.


May 12, 2016

Speaker: Dr. Marcus Heldmann (Universität Lübeck) (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: The impact of cognitive control on the maintenance of dyslexia: implications and electrophysiological evidence

Abstract: One critical aspect in the maintenance of dyslexia is the inability of affected persons to detect errors in their own writing. This impaired error sensitivity is assumed to promote the consolidation of memory representations of incorrect word spellings. In our present research we are able to show, that impaired error sensitivity affects event-related components in the EEG, which are assumed to reflect cognitive control processes. We are also able to show that cognitive control processes vary with the development of reading and writing skills in children. Based on these findings we would like to argue for a training program in children with impaired writing abilities that is based on the principles of errorless learning procedures. /p>


May 19, 2016

Speaker: Dr. Bilge Sayim (Universität Leuven) (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: Crowding and Appearance in Peripheral Vision

Abstract: To perceive and navigate in complex environments, humans rely strongly on information from the visual periphery. A severe limit of peripheral vision is crowding – the inability to identify objects in clutter that are easily identified in isolation. For example, a letter presented in the periphery that can be identified when presented alone, is indiscernible when flanked by close-by letters. Crowding does not only deteriorate performance but also changes target appearance. However, only few studies have addressed the appearance of crowded stimuli, even though the specific kinds of appearance changes may be key to understanding crowding. Here, I will present results that show how crowded appearance predicts performance, introduce appearance-based methods that reveal error characteristics of crowding that are not revealed in standard crowding paradigms, and show how visual artists may play a key role in shedding light on the underlying mechanisms of crowding.


June 2, 2016

Speaker: () (invited by )




June 9, 2016

Speaker: Dr. Jens Schwarzbach (University of Regensburg) (invited by Prof. Schmidt)




June 16, 2016

Speaker: Leor Roseman, PhD (Imperial College London) (invited by Prof. Allen)

Topic: Neural correlates of LSD-induced, eyes-closed, psychedelic imagery

Abstract:Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a psychedelic drug that induces an altered state of consciousness characterized by visual hallucinations. Healthy participants were injected with LSD (75 μg) or placebo and underwent 14-min fMRI resting-state scans. During LSD sessions (but not in placebo sessions) two distinct patterns were observed: First, subjective ratings of eyes-closed psychedelic imagery were positively correlated with significant increases in functional connectivity between the primary visual cortex (V1) and other regions; bilateral striatum, insular cortex, operculum cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, superior and middle temporal gyrus, supramarginal gyrus, angular gyrus, paracingulate gyrus and medial posterior thalamus. Second, eyes-closed functional connectivity within the visual network (between V1 and V3) mimicked patterns defined as characteristic to perceptual localizations of de facto presented stimuli.

As the first modern neuroimaging LSD study, it has been widely reported (and harshly misinterpreted) in the media during the last weeks. I will attempt to clarify recurrent misconceptions and compare our findings to psychedelic imagery research conducted in the 50’s and 60’s.


June 30, 2016

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Andreas Nieder (Universität Tübingen) (invited by Prof. Friauf)

Topic: Intelligence without a cerebral cortex - lessons from crows



July 7, 2016

Speaker: () (invited by )




July 14, 2016

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Kepa Paz-Alonso (BCBL) (invited by Prof. Czernochowski)

Topic: Neural correlates of the testing effect

Abstract:Extensive behavioral evidence has demonstrated that retrieval practice is highly beneficial for long-term memory. However, the neural mechanisms underlying the testing effect remain relatively elusive. Here we sought to investigate the role of the hippocampus and cortical regions typically associated with retrieval success on the testing effect using functional and structural MRI. Thirty-seven adults studied 100 Swahili-Spanish word pairs, under repeated retrieval or repeated study conditions, and underwent MRI scanning 48 hours after encoding. fMRI results revealed that although similar brain regions were recruited for study- and retrieval-practice conditions, differential MTL activation and functional connectivity with MTL profiles emerged for successful retrieval as a function of these conditions. Structural analyses showed that total left hippocampus and left CA3/4 and dentate gyrus subfield volumes predicted successful retrieval only for information learned via study practice. Our findings showed differential hippocampal involvement and MTL-cortical neural dynamics as a function of the learning strategy.

WS 2015/2016

19. November 2015

Speaker: Dr. Nora Schaal (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf) (invited by Prof. Czernochowski)

Topic: Modulating pitch memory using non-invasive brain stimulation methods

Abstract: Memory for pitch is an important factor for music and language processing. Behavioural research suggests a specific storage mechanism for pitch information and brain imaging studies have highlighted a complex neural network underlying pitch memory. As functional brain imaging studies cannot reveal causal involvements of neural areas of interest and cognitive tasks, non-invasive brain stimulation methods are better suited. In my talk I will introduce three non-invasive brain stimulation techniques (transcranial direct current stimulation, transcranial alternating current stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation) and will discuss three studies using these techniques in order to modulate pitch memory abilities and to investigate the significance of targeted brain areas for the pitch memory process. Furthermore, I will talk about whether neural specificities for pitch memory can be found for musicians, as experts in the musical domain and amusics, who dispose a pitch memory deficit.


26. November 2015

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Christine Schiltz (COSA Institute, University of Luxemburg) (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: How do space and language influence number concept learning?

Abstract: A major challenge in math classes is the fact that numerical concepts and symbols are abstract. Especially for young children, this abstractness stands in contrast to their preference of concrete situations and problems.

Recently, it has been proposed that even the most abstract concepts, such as numbers, are rooted in concrete body-related processes – an idea termed “embodied cognition”. Here we will analyze how number concepts relate to the concrete aspect of space and consider recent evidence providing insights into the mechanisms underlying number-space associations and their development (e.g. Goffaux et al., 2012; Hoffmann et al., 2013).

Besides the sensori-motor influence on number concepts, the learner’s context and especially his/her language environment also plays a critical role in shaping number concepts. Investigations into the relation between language and numerical cognition - in particular the question how multi-lingual persons conceive and process numbers - have lately regained interest. Here we will present and discuss recent findings from studies on the influence of language on numerical cognition in a multilingual context such as Luxembourg (e.g. Van Rinsveld et al., 2015).

Taken together we hope that this work on the relationship between the domain-general aspects of space and language and number concepts will help us understand how number symbols are represented and why and how people differ in their numerical understandings.


14. January 2016

Speaker: Dr. Mathias Vukelic (IAO.Fraunhofer, Stuttgart) (invited by Dr. Christmann)

Topic: Utilizing brain-based interaction between humans and machines for neuro-adaptive technologies

Abstract: In the last four decades brain-based interaction between humans and machines – known as Brain-Computer or Brain-Robotic Interfaces - has been investigated extensively. Using such innovative technology, relevant information from the user can be continuously detected by recognizing users’ mental, cognitive and emotional state. Based on this extracted information, the attributes of interactive digital systems and technical environments can be adjusted accordingly – leading to neuro-adaptive systems. While most research is aimed at the design of assistive, supportive or restorative systems for severely disabled persons, the last decade additionally showed new research towards applications for people without physical impairments in the field of Human-Technology Interaction (HTI). I will present recent and ongoing research of two categories of brain-based interaction in which neuro-adaptive systems can be used for medical applications, i.e. to restore motor functions after stroke and for HTI in general, i.e. to design assistive technologies which are more user-oriented.


21. January 2016

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Laura Winther Balling (Copenhagen Business School) (invited by Prof. Allen)

Topic: Text and Sentence Processing in the lab and in the wild

Abstract: I will present my work on sentence and text processing, two lines of research which are at the same time closely related and fundamentally different. The close relation lies, among other things, in the fact that sentence and text processing are adjacent levels of processing, with considerable impact of sentence level phenomena on text processing. The fundamental difference is in the approach: I study sentence processing in strictly controlled experiments and text processing in a much more naturalistic setup. In addition to talking about the findings in these two lines of research, I will present my view of pros and cons of the different approaches, and hope to discuss with the audience ways of making research on language processing in the lab as informative as possible about language processing in the wild.



11. February 2016

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Juhani Järvikivi (University of Alberta, Canada) (invited by Prof. Allen)

Topic: Preschoolers’ processing of pronouns in speech – Snapshots from the visual world

Abstract: How people assign reference to pronouns has received a lot of attention in psycholinguistics. Even though we understand many of the linguistic and contextual cues that direct attention to referents in adult language comprehension, relatively little is still known about how young children go about this feat given the time constraints of normal conversation.

The advent of the visual world eye tracking paradigm has advanced the study of children’s language processing. These studies typically ask whether children show sensitivity to the same sources of information and/or similar parsing strategies as adults. Studies have used the look-and-listen variant of the paradigm offer a series of snapshots into young children’s pronoun processing suggesting that their online (and offline) comprehension is sensitive to many of the same cues as adult processing (e.g., Arnold et al., 2005; Pyykkönen et al., 2010; Hartshorne et al., 2015). However, these results differ markedly with respect to the timecourse of the effects – children seem to be consistently slower. These differences can be (and have been) attributed either to children’s language knowledge (experience) or cognitive maturation (memory, cognitive control).

In this light, I will briefly review some of the recent literature on children’s online processing of reference and discuss some of our recent and ongoing work investigating preschoolers’ comprehension of ambiguous pronouns – in particular, how sentence/information structure and visual cues affect children’s (and adults’) pronoun comprehension.

SS 2015

23. April 2015

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Caterina Gawrilow (Universität Tübingen) (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: Assessment and Intervention of Self-Regulation

Abstract: The ability to self-regulate thoughts, emotions, and actions is pivotal for success in daily life: Individuals with good self-regulation skills achieve better grades in school, are healthier, have more satisfactory relationships, etc. This talk therefore presents data on (new) reliable methods to assess different aspects of self-regulation in various developmental phases – also at a day-to-day perspective (using for instance smartphones). Next to measurement of self-regulation, evidence-based interventions aimed at fostering self-regulation are important for individuals with low levels of self-regulation in particular (e.g., individuals with ADHD). Thus, a second focus of this talk will be on empirical studies investigating effects of such interventions. Finally, a theoretical classification of the facets of self-regulation will be suggested.


30. April 2015

Speaker:Prof. Dr. Matthew Crocker (Universität des Saarlandes) (invited by Prof. Allen)

Topic: The interplay of gaze and speech: Eye-tracking in virtual settings

Abstract: When speech pertains to the objects and events in the world around us, gaze and speech become closely intertwined: Speakers typically look at objects about 1sec before they mention them, while listeners fixate relevant objects within 250msec of hearing them mentioned. In face-to-face interaction, listeners can "short-cut" this process by following the speaker's gaze directly to get cues about which objects he/she is planning to mention. Thus gaze serves as a useful visual cue for both grounding and efficient disambiguation of spoken referents. In this talk I will discuss recent research which seeks to further understand the nature, importance and dynamics of gaze in visually-situated human-computer interaction. I will first focus on how eye gaze of artificial agents influences the way people understand their speech, with the aim of determining whether speaker gaze merely offers a visual cue, or more meaningful information regarding referential intentions. I will then discuss recent research which exploits the real-time gaze of human users in order to improve the automatic generation of spoken directions, as users seek to navigate their way through a virtual environment. I will conclude by summarizing the importance of eye-gaze as a real-time channel for situated spoken interaction, and discuss the implications for both human-human and human-computer interaction.


21. Mai 2015

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Andrea Kiesel (University of Freiburg) (invited by Prof. Schmidt)

Topic: It is not only words - Exploring instructed stimulus-response associations

Abstract: Previous studies on item-specific priming have established the independence of two distinct components of acquired stimulus-response associations: Stimulus-Action (S-A) and Stimulus-Classification (S-C) associations. Here we show that merely instructing S-A and S-C mappings leads to associative learning and influences later behavior. More specifically, we demonstrate that item-specific switches in S-A and S-C mappings between a prime and a later corresponding probe trial independently affect reaction time and accuracy both when participants act upon prime stimuli as well as when participants are merely instructed about the correct action and classification associated with prime stimuli. In a number of experiments, we elaborate on the stability and durability of S-A and S-C associations instantiated by mere instruction.


28. Mai 2015

Speaker: Dr. David Vinson (University College London) (invited by Prof. Allen)

Topic: Making sense of the hands: integration of speech and gestures in comprehension

Abstract: When we speak, we cannot help but gesture. It is now well established by researchers on "nonverbal" communication that large amounts of meaningful information are conveyed by the gestures we make when we speak, that representational gestures and speech are tightly temporally synchronised and exhibit other properties of mutual dependence. Researchers in psycholinguistics, however, tend to regard gesture as secondary or irrelevant to the processes constituting comprehension, in large part due to the use of printed text or auditory speech, both of which eliminate the visual cues that are present in face-to-face communication. In recent years there have been increased efforts to bring the two fields together, particularly in studies examining the behavioural and neural consequences that arise when speech and gesture mismatch. Behavioural studies suggest that speech and gesture are integrated and weighted equally in providing access to meaning. Neuroimaging studies implicate bilateral temporal regions (posterior STS, middle temporal gyrus) and left inferior frontal gyrus (pars triangularis) in semantic integration. However, all existing studies of speech-gesture mismatch have used video clips of speakers whose heads/faces are not visible - not only due to the technical challenges of producing realistic mismatching speech-gesture combinations with a visible face, but also to avoid tapping into integration between the auditory speech signal and visible head/face movements corresponding to produced speech. I will argue that the face is essential to understanding semantic integration between speech and gesture, presenting behavioural experiments and an fMRI study, all using digitally manipulated video clips in which the speaker's face is visible and corresponds to the heard speech. While gesture is still relevant to speech comprehension, the balance of the cues is shifted; and the neural systems engaged in semantic integration appear to be limited to bilateral temporal regions under these conditions.


11. June 2015

Speaker: Mireille Trautmann (invited by Prof. Lachmann)

Topic: Researching the causes of dyslexia

Abstract: Instead of following one line of argumentation, such as the influence of auditory perception on the development of phonological awareness, a systematic facet model is necessary to identify the development of singular, bi-, and cross-modal perception, attention, and higher cognition in dyslexia over time. In addition, such a model should also include etiological measures such as genetic and family risk factors. In my presentation I present data from a study that focused on distinctive processing types that fit into a complex model of how dyslexia emerges.


25. June 2015

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Julia Fischer (Kognitive Ethologie Deutsches Primatenzentrum Leibniz Institut für Primateforschung Göttingen) (invited by Prof. Friauf)

Topic: Comparative approaches to understanding the origins of the language faculty

Abstract: Elucidating the origins of speech has been a major driver in studies of animal vocal communication. I will here discuss three aspects that have been deemed central in this regard, namely semanticity, vocal learning, and intentionality. The classic example of semantic communication are the alarm calls of vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), who give three distinct alarm calls in response to their three main predator classes, and the calls alone are sufficient to elicit different escape strategies. The calls were thus deemed as being “functionally referential”, and assumed to provide important insights into the evolution of speech. We used comprehensive quantitative analysis to re-assess the structural variation within their vocalizations. Although the three different alarm calls indeed differ significantly, we found substantial overlap in acoustic structure with calls produced in non-alarm contexts, indicating that these alarm calls are indexical rather than symbolic. Playback experiments on Green monkeys, the West African congeners of vervets further show that responses are guided by both the acoustic information available and contextual cues. Analyses of the variation of alarm calls in different Chlorocebus populations underscore the view that the structure of nonhuman primate vocalizations is largely innate. In the second part of the talk, I will review a number of studies that have addressed the genetic basis of vocal learning in mice, including mice carrying the human variant of the FOXP2 gene. These studies strongly suggest that mice are not vocal learners either, questioning their utility as models for studying the genetic basis of vocal learning. I will conclude with a brief discussion of differences in the intentional structure of human and nonhuman primate communication and provide an outlook on promising future questions.


02. July 2015

Ehrenkolloquium Hans-Georg Geissler


09. July 2015

Speaker: Dr. Ilja Sligte (Universität Amsterdam) (invited by Prof. Schmidt / Dr. Panis)

Topic: Visual sensory memory = perceptual consciousness

Abstract: In recent years, we have published several papers showing the existence of a high-capacity (up to 15 objects) and long-lived (up to 4s) form of sensory memory that can be clearly dissociated from iconic memory (Sligte, Scholte, Lamme, 2008) and from working memory (Sligte et al., 2011; Vandenbroucke, Sligte, & Lamme, 2011). We have argued that this new form of sensory memory, putatively termed fragile memory, represents a low-level and parallel form of phenomenological awareness. Indeed, signatures of consciousness such as perceptual inference (Vandenbroucke et al., 2012), metacognition (Vandenbroucke et al., 2014) and feature binding (Elport & Sligte, forthcoming) all seem to be present in fragile memory. However, all our results were based on partial-report experiments where subjects had to choose between change and no-change responses. This fact has triggered the criticism that subjects were just guessing (Phillips, 2011) on the basis of unconscious representations, as in blindsight. To explore this alternative explanation of our findings, we tested how subjects performed on a partial-report task with continuous response options (see Zhang & Luck, 2008; Bays & Husain, 2008 for examples of the task; we added retro-cues to this paradigm similar to Sligte, Scholte, & Lamme, 2008). We observed that subjects could report 7 objects (out of 8) with high precision on pure iconic memory conditions, about 6 on retro-cue (long-lasting and fragile form of memory) conditions, and only 4 on post-cue, working memory conditions. This suggests that all our previous studies validly made perceptual consciousness available for cognitive access.


23. July 2015

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Wieske van Zoest (University of Trento) (invited by Prof. Schmidt / Dr. Panis)

Topic: Developing representations in visual selection and time

Abstract: Oculomotor selection has an idiosyncratic time-course: early selection is driven primarily by raw saliency, whereas late selection is guided by search templates. In the last couple of years my colleagues and I have started to test the idea that this time-course can change as a function of experience and early developmental plasticity.

In particular, we investigated whether selection dynamics are altered 1) in observers that have a background of increased visual training as a result of extensive action video-game (AVG) playing, 2) in deaf observers who rely heavily on information from the visual domain because of the absence of auditory input. Our results show that the time-course of oculomotor performance is speeded in AVG players, but slowed in deaf observers, in both cases relative to control groups. Moreover, individuals that respond relatively slower in both groups are less influenced by stimulus-saliency than individuals that respond relatively fast. However, the time-course of visual processing fundamentally remains consistent across these groups: the function shifts in time, but the representation does not qualitatively change. In addition, using concurrent eye-tracking and EEG to study the neurophysiological correlates, we show that the development of distractor inhibition as indicated by a contralateral positivity (Pd) looks similar regardless of how much time observers took before making the eye movement. Thus, the ERP component being equal, saccadic performance critically depended on when in time the eye movement was made: Only slow oculomotor responses benefit from inhibition while fast responses did not because these occurred before inhibition was established. To conclude, the development of visual representations in processing seems relatively determined across experience and in the brain. Critically, when the representation is accessed defines the kind of information that is prioritized and consequent control and performance.