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Cognitive Psychology Colloquia


Tamar Makin, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL - Homo Cyberneticus: Neurocognitive considerations for the embodiment of artificial limbs


When: 27 May 2020, 1pm
Where: Faculty of Social Sciences, Pieter de la Court gebouw, Wassenaarseweg 52, room SA41

(When) should we all get artificial limbs? Technology is progressing at a remarkable pace, providing us with wearable robotic technologies to substitute, and even supplement, our own limbs, freeing humans from the biological constraints of their own bodies. But can the human brain embody these exciting technologies as new body parts? I will describe very recent neuroimaging and behavioural studies we’ve been conducting in amputees who use prosthetic limbs to substitute their missing hand function. We find that although brain resources originally devoted to body representation can be utilised to represent an artificial limb, the representational features of a prosthesis do not mimic that of a biological hand. These studies provide a first glimpse into neurocognitive opportunities and limitations towards artificial limb embodiment. I will then present ongoing studies examining what happens to people’s (intact) biological body representation after they are provided with robotic augmentation – a Third Thumb. If you want to know what happens… please attend the talk! The bottom line is that our intuitions as scientists (mainly inspired by sci fi culture) tend to fail us when hypothesising on how the brain interfaces with wearable technology, so there are many pertinent open questions that await further research.


Valerio Mante - A bird’s eye view of sensorimotor learning


When: 24 June 2020, 1pm
Where: Faculty of Social Sciences, Pieter de la Court gebouw, Wassenaarseweg 52, room SA41

Motor behaviors are continually shaped by a variety of processes such as environmental influences, development, and learning. The resulting behavioral changes are commonly quantified based on hand-picked features (e.g. syllable pitch) and assuming discrete classes of behaviors (e.g. distinct syllables). Such methods may generalize poorly across behaviors and species and are necessarily biased. In my talk I will present an account of behavioral change based on nearest-neighbor statistics that minimizes such biases and apply it to song development in the juvenile zebra finch. Our new approach reveals multiple, previously unrecognized components of behavioral change operating at distinct time-scales and distinct patterns of overnight consolidation across the behavioral repertoire. Because of their generality, our nearest-neighbor statistics appear well-suited to comparing learning across behaviors and species, and between biological and artificial systems.


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