Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS)

Seminars

COGS Seminars provide a forum for internationally recognised researchers from all corners of cognitive science research to present and discuss their latest findings. All are welcome to attend.

Scroll down for video recordings of past seminars (currently accessible by Sussex account holders only).

Spring 2016

Tuesdays 16-17:30

DateSeminarVenue

Feb 9    

Developing Brain Networks in Childhood and Adolescence: Cortical excitability
and plasticity
 
Kathrin Cohen Kadosh 
Oxford University

FRE-F22 

Feb 16

Natural Acquaintance
Sam Coleman
University of Hertfordshire

FRE-F22

Feb 23

Social Learning: Fundamental mechanisms and individual differences
Jennifer Cook
University of Birmingham

FRE-F22

Mar 1

Active Inference and Epistemic Value
Karl Friston 
University College London

 

FRE-F22 

Mar 8

The Singularity: Looming or illusory?
Maggie Boden
University of Sussex 

FRE-F22

Mar 15

Dispositions and Character Traits
Maria Alvarez  
King's College London

FRE-F22 

April 5

Why I'm Not a Cyborg
Kathleen Richardson   
De Montfort University

FRE-F22 

April 12

The Eye’s Mind: The visual imagination and its role in culture
Adam Zeman
University of Exeter

FRE-F22

April 26

A New Look at an Old Approach to Consciousness: How an individual mind works 
David Booth 
University of Sussex

FRE-F22

May 3

Delusions: Clinical, cognitive, philosophical and legal perspectives
Matthew Broome
University of Oxford

FRE-F22

 

Developing Brain Networks in Childhood and Adolescence: Cortical excitability and plasticity

Kathrin Cohen Kadosh  
Oxford University

My talk will focus on the results from two recent research projects, where I used single-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy and fMRI-based neurofeedback (NF) to investigate the developing brain. Developmental adjustments in the balance of excitation and inhibition are thought to constrain the plasticity of sensory areas of the cortex, yet it is unclear how these changes contribute to skill acquisition during development. Testing a group of 7-year-old girls and young women, I found that higher excitability levels (i.e., glutamate vs γ-aminobutyric acid ratios) in the inferior frontal gyrus correlated positively with face processing proficiency in the children, but not the adults. Conversely, excitability correlated negatively with visuo-spatial working memory performance in the adult group. These effects were independent of age-dependent differences in underlying cortical grey matter. The results suggests that while increased excitability may be crucial for acquiring new cognitive skills and neuroplasticity during development, maintaining these levels of neurochemical ratios may not be necessary for proficient functioning in later life.

In the second half of my talk, I will present the results from a NF study, which taught a group of 7-16 year-olds to up-regulate the bilateral insula, a key emotion regulation (ER) region. NF has been used to train ER networks in adults, however, its usefulness in influencing ER network plasticity during development remains unclear. All participants were able to increase insula activation across several sessions. Moreover, training differentially affected the functional connectivity in the regulation and rest network connections. These findings confirm the suitability of using NF to shape key ER networks during development.

Together, the results highlight the usefulness of these two novel research approaches to the investigation of plasticity in the developing brain and their potential to guide future training and intervention work.

COGS Seminar: Kathrin Cohen Kadosh (56:37)

4:03pm Tuesday 9th February 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

 

Natural Acquaintance

Sam Coleman 
University of Hertfordshire

Notwithstanding its phenomenological appeal, physicalists have tended to shun the notion that we are 'acquainted' with our mental states in consciousness, due to the fact that the acquaintance relation seems mysterious, irreducible and consequently unnatural. I propose a model of conscious experience based on the idea of 'mental quotation', and argue that this captures what we want from acquaintance but without any threat to naturalism. More generally the paper embodies a complaint that reductionists seem unable to look past the representation relation to do the implementing of consciousness, and a call for theorists to investigate other relations to model our connection to our conscious states, like the constitution/part-whole relationship. This mundane relation has what it takes to give us natural acquaintance with our conscious mental states.

Cogs Seminar: Sam Coleman (1:38:31)

3:57pm Tuesday 16th February 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

Social Learning: Fundamental mechanisms and individual differences

Jennifer Cook
University of Birmingham

Difficulties with social learning are thought to comprise a core characteristic of autism spectrum conditions. However, social learning difficulties are not restricted to the clinic, indeed problems with learning socially are thought to cost organisations billions in lost productivity each year. In this talk I will discuss the fundamental mechanisms underpinning social learning, question whether they can be dissociated from those that underpin learning from one’s own experience, and comment on individual differences in social learning.

COGS Seminar: Jennifer Cook (1:26:40)

4:02pm Tuesday 23rd February 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

Active Inference and Epistemic Value

Karl Friston
University College London

I will talk about a formal treatment of choice behaviour based on the premise that agents minimise the expected free energy of future outcomes. Crucially, the negative free energy or quality of a policy can be decomposed into extrinsic and epistemic (intrinsic) value. Minimising expected free energy is therefore equivalent to maximising extrinsic value or expected utility (defined in terms of prior preferences or goals), while maximising information gain or intrinsic value; i.e., reducing uncertainty about the causes of valuable outcomes. The resulting scheme resolves the exploration-exploitation dilemma: epistemic value is maximised until there is no further information gain, after which exploitation is assured through maximisation of extrinsic value. This is formally consistent with the Infomax principle, generalising formulations of active vision based upon salience (Bayesian surprise) and optimal decisions based on expected utility and risk sensitive (KL) control. Furthermore, as with previous active inference formulations of discrete (Markovian) problems; ad hoc softmax parameters become the expected (Bayes-optimal) precision of beliefs about – or confidence in – policies. We focus on the basic theory – illustrating the minimisation of expected free energy using simulations. A key aspect of this minimisation is the similarity of precision updates and dopaminergic discharges observed in conditioning paradigms.

Keywords: active inference ∙ cognitive ∙ dynamics ∙ free energy ∙ epistemic value ∙ self-organization

COGS Seminar: Karl Friston (1:32:00)

4:03pm Tuesday 1st March 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

The Singularity: Looming or illusory?

Maggie Boden
University of Sussex

The Singularity is the supposed point at which AI reaches, and then soon surpasses, human-level intelligence. It’s a highly controversial notion. Some people think it’s due in a couple of decades; some think it’s inevitable, at some date; others doubt that it will ever happen. Moreover, some people welcome the prospect: all humanity’s problems solved—even mortality. Others dread it, seeing it as an existential threat.

In my opinion, it certainly isn’t looming. Indeed, it may be illusory: it may never happen. Human-level AI is possible in principle. However, it’s exceedingly difficult to achieve. At present, we are nowhere near it.

Dispositions and Character Traits

Maria Alvarez   
King's College London

We often explain why something happened by citing a disposition. For instance, we explain why a sugar cube dissolved by reference to its solubility, or why the glass shattered by reference to its fragility. Human actions are also often explained in terms of psychological or mental dispositions, for instance, character traits such as generosity, shyness, cowardice. This talk examines character traits conceived of as psychological dispositions. I start by outlining some central features of ‘paradigmatic dispositions’, i.e., physical dispositions. I then examine character traits and suggest that they have certain features that set them apart from paradigmatic dispositions. Finally, I propose some consequences that this might have for accounts of action explanations that cite character traits.

COGS Seminar: Maria Alvarez (1:28:29)

4:07pm Tuesday 15th March 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

Why I'm Not a Cyborg

Kathleen Richardson 
De Montfort University

It is over 30 years since feminist theoretician Donna Haraway published her Cyborg Manifesto writing ‘A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction’.* It is not just feminists who made use of the cyborg imagery, posthumanists, transhumanists and robotic scientists all point to the cyborg age - 'We're all cyborgs now!’ they declare. As people are connected with old and new technologies have we really lost the capacity to formulate an argument for what it means to be human? In this talk I will explore these issues by drawing on anthropology and robotics.

http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Haraway-CyborgManifesto-1.pdf

COGS Seminar: Kathleen Richardson (1:19:34)

4:01pm Tuesday 5th April 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

The Eye’s Mind: The visual imagination and its role in culture

Adam Zeman 
University of Exeter

Imagination enables us to escape from the here and now into the past, the future and the virtual worlds conceived by science and art. The capacity to summon images to the mind’s eye, visualisation, is a conspicuous element of imagination for most – but not for all – of us. In this talk I will report on the work of an interdisciplinary project (http://medicine.exeter.ac.uk/research/neuroscience/theeyesmind/) focussed on the visual imagination. Its three strands have included a review of historical attitudes to visualisation in philosophy, a meta-analysis of functional imaging studies of visualisation and a continuing project investigating the wide variation in the vividness of imagery across the population: a small subgroup of individuals describe a complete lack of voluntary visual imagery, a state we have christened ‘aphantasia’.

Adam Zeman, Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Neurology, University of Exeter Medical School a.zeman@exeter.ac.uk

COGS Seminar: Adam Zeman (1:22:03)

4:00pm Tuesday 12th April 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

A New Look at an Old Approach to Consciousness: How an individual mind works

David Booth 
University of Sussex

Wittgenstein argued that how things seem is not access to another world but seeing things as if they were that way in our shared world.  In the most basic biosocial science of the causal system of one person’s mind, a covert or overt act which is influenced by a response concept is conscious in that aspect - ‘as if’ it were need of help (while empathising), danger (during anxiety), honey-like in taste, etc. Last session, my presentation to COGS outlined what this theory could achieve, while talks in Psychology presented a variety of data it explained. This seminar details a ’standard model’ of information-transfer in a socially and physically adaptive system. Simple arithmetic of linear equations in a Euclidean space can convert observed input and output values into a meaningful content and structure that explains the individual’s action in a situation. The fundamental process of subtracting the present from the past is unconscious.  To have adequate evidence that any resulting aspect in mind is also unconscious, every potential response specific to that feature has to be excluded.  Experiments on priming and subception are discussed from that viewpoint.

COGS Seminar: David Booth (1:29:59)

4:03pm Tuesday 26th April 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

Delusions: Clinical, cognitive, philosophical and legal perspectives

Matthew Broome 
University of Oxford

In this talk, I’ll discuss delusions from several different approaches.  First, I’ll define delusions, and how that definition has changed with successive iterations of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; the common themes of delusions, and the role they play in clinical diagnosis. Second, I will introduce some philosophical approaches to delusions, relating these to cognitive models of delusion formation and empirical work I’ve carried out in those in the earliest stages of psychosis.  The final section of the talk will examine the role delusions and psychosis may play in the attribution of criminal responsibility in the courts, and draw on the case of Anders Breivik.

COGS Seminar: Matthew Broome (1:29:43)

4:02pm Tuesday 3rd May 2016 in Freeman F22

 Download : video audio

Contact COGS

For suggestions for speakers, contact Simon Bowes, the organizer.

For publicity and questions regarding the website, contact Ron Chrisley.

Please mention COGS and COGS seminars to all potentially interested newcomers to the university.

A good way to keep informed about COGS Seminars is to be a member of COGS.  Any member of the university may join COGS and the COGS mailing list by using the subscription form at http://lists.sussex.ac.uk/mailman/listinfo/cogs.

 

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