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Cognitive Science Colloquium

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

Wintersemester 2017-2018

November 16, 2017

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

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



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)




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.