Center for Cognitive Science


April 22, 2021

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Stefen José Hanson (University of Rutgers, New Jersey, invited by Thomas Lachmann)

Topic: Scale free Brain networks

Abstract:The Brain is composed of many functional networks and maps. Developmentally, brain networks grow rapidly through birth with simultaneous “pruning” of more than 30-40% of embryonic neural growth. This creates specific network structures that are shaped functionally through sensory, motor and cognitive challenges, creating a strong hierarchical network of hubs, often called “scale-free”. Pertubations or tissue loss through disease or trauma, can be detected by modeling the network communication “distress” using graphical estimation and complexity measures showing significant excursion from scale-free distributions and local brain network disruption. We will show examples of these models in individuals with autism, schziophernia and age related dementia.

April 29, 2021

Speaker: Prof. Dr. David Strayer (University of Utah, USA, invited by Shanley Allen)

Topic: Emerging Technology and Distracted Driving:  From the Model T to the Model S

Abstract: Driver distraction is increasingly recognized as a significant source of injuries and fatalities on the roadway. Driver distraction can arise from visual/manual interference, for example when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road to interact with a device. Impairments also stem from cognitive sources of distraction when attention is diverted from safely operating the vehicle. Concern over distracted driving is growing as more and more wireless devices are being integrated into the vehicle. Working with AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, we developed, validated, and applied a metric of distraction associated with the diversion of attention from driving.  Our studies show that the distraction potential can be reliably measured, that cognitive workload systematically varies as a function of the secondary task performed by the driver, and that many activities, particularly complex multimodal interactions in the vehicle, are associated with surprisingly high levels of mental workload.  Using the new technology in the vehicle may have unintended consequences that adversely affect traffic safety.

May 06, 2021

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Jennifer Mangels (Baruch College, City University of New York (CUNY), invited by Daniela Czernochowski)

Topic: Mechanisms for maximal learning from mistakes: A social-cognitive neuroscience approach

Abstract: This talk will cover a series of significant findings from a program of research aimed at understanding how student mindset and motivation modulate the response to errors and corrective feedback. I will focus on select ERP indices associated with feedback responses that are related to the ability to learn and rebound from errors (FRN, P3a/FPC, LPP, inferior temporal negativity).  I will conclude by presenting a socio-cognitive neuroscience model of the mechanisms supporting successful learning and how this can inform educators' best practices for student success in challenging areas where mistakes a natural part of the learning process.

May 20, 2021

Conference Psycholinguistics in Flanders  

May 20th-21st, 2021

June 10, 2021

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Gregory Ashby (University of California, Santa Barbara, invited by Thomas Lachmann)

Topic: I have no idea how I did that: The remarkable learning abilities of the human brain

Abstract: Much evidence suggests that humans have multiple learning systems that for the most part are functionally and anatomically distinct, evolved at different times for different purposes, and that learn in qualitatively different ways. Progress on understanding these putative systems has been facilitated by comparing performance in rule-based (RB) and information-integration (II) category-learning tasks. Much evidence suggests that RB learning depends on prefrontal-dependent explicit reasoning, whereas II learning depends on basal-ganglia-dependent procedural learning. For example, learning in RB tasks is of abstract category labels, generalizes to novel stimuli and training conditions, and is flexible with respect to the nature and timing of feedback. In contrast, learning in II tasks is of response locations, does not generalize beyond the specific training stimuli and conditions, and requires immediate feedback. Despite these qualitative differences, there is also strong evidence that automatic behaviors are all mediated in a similar way – regardless of how they were initially learned. We have proposed that automatic behaviors learned via either system are mediated entirely within cortex, via direct projections from the relevant sensory association areas to premotor cortex. By themselves, these projections are incapable of initial skill learning because plasticity at these cortical-cortical synapses is governed by Hebbian learning, which by itself is incapable of acquiring behaviors that depend on feedback for accurate production. The idea is that the learning systems train these automatic cortical-cortical projections by activating the correct postsynaptic targets in premotor cortex. In this way, the cortical-cortical projections eventually become strong enough to elicit the behavior, without assistance from the learning systems. A variety of evidence is described that supports this view.

June 24, 2021

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Johanne Paradis (University of Alberta, Canada, invited by Shanley Allen)

Topic: Sources of individual differences in the bilingual development of Syrian refugee children recently arrived in Canada

Abstract: The number of refugees worldwide is the highest ever recorded and over half are children (UNHCR, 2017). Children from refugee families can have experiences that set them apart from other migrant children, e.g., interrupted schooling, witnessing and being the victims of violence, loss of and separation from family members, displacement and frequent transitions, residing in refugee camps or detention centres (Graham et al. 2016; Sirin & Rogers-Sirin 2015; Kaplan et al. 2016). Post-migration, refugee families can also face economic and social integration difficulties and many child refugees struggle with socioemotional wellbeing and mental health post-migration (Bronstein & Montgomery, 2011; Stewart et al., 2019). Such adverse experiences could well impact these children’s development of both their first language (L1) and their second language (L2). For example, interrupted schooling could result in lower than age-expected abilities in the L1. In addition, since mental distress interferes with cognitive functioning and learning (Yasik et al., 2007), it could, in turn, interfere specifically with language learning. 

To date, little research has focused on the bilingual development in refugee children separate from other populations of bilingual children. Furthermore, while much recent research has focused on sources of individual differences in bilingual development such as, age, cognitive and input factors (Chondrogianni, 2018; Paradis, 2016; Unsworth, 2016), very little research has examined the influence of wellbeing and adversity factors in particular. In this talk, I will present research from a longitudinal study on the bilingual development of Syrian refugee children recently arrived in Canada.  The focus will be on sources of individual differences in their Arabic-L1 and English-L2 development, including age of arrival, quality and quantity of input-output, parental education, family size, as well as pre-migration adversity factors and concurrent socioemotional wellbeing.  The influence of these factors on children’s lexical, morphosyntactic and narrative abilities in both languages across time will be discussed.  The overall goal of the talk is to reveal what poses challenges to these children’s dual language development as well as what underlies their successes.  The educational and clinical implications of this research will be discussed.

July 01, 2021

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Yury Styrov (University of Aarhus, Denmark, invited by Shanley Allen)

Topic: Brain mechanisms for rapid word learning: functional, structural and neuromodulatory evidence

Abstract: Language is among the most important human abilities, underpinning our personal, social and economic lives. Its efficient use relies on a unique human skill to quickly and efficiently learn new words, building up huge lexicons of many thousands of words throughout our lifespans. Despite its clear importance, this vital ability to quickly and effectively learn words and their meanings is poorly understood. Conventional knowledge maintains that language learning—especially in adulthood—is slow and laborious. Furthermore, its neural bases in the brain remain unclear. Even though behavioural manifestations of learning are evident near instantly (e.g., we can start using new words immediately), previous neuroimaging work has largely studied slow neural changes associated with months or years of practice. To overcome this gap, we used a variety of state-of-the-art neuroimaging tools, including EEG, MEG, MRI, TMS and tDCS, as well as bespoke learning paradigms to tackle rapid brain mechanisms underpinning different types of word acquisition. Our results show a network of cortical areas that take part in online word and morpheme acquisition, which exhibit immediate functional and structural plasticity. This plasticity depends on multiple factors, including phonology, semantic references, individual language experience, age etc.  Distinct cortical mechanisms become involved depending on the type of learning and semantic and morphological content of novel words. Furthermore, these cortical learning systems can be modulated using neurostimulation tools.


July 08, 2021 

Mini-Conference Cognitive Science I

Speaker: Master students from Cognitive Science

Abstract: Talks and poster presentations from various labrotations

July 15, 2021 

Mini-Conference Cognitive Science II

Speaker: Master students from Cognitive Science

Abstract: Talks and poster presentations from various labrotations

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