Sanders in Cog Bag Lunch Weds. Sept. 12

Lisa Sanders will be presenting in the first first cognitive bag lunch Wednesday Sept. 12, 12:00-1:25 in Tobin 521B. The title of the talk is “A Potential Measure of Phonological Processing During Natural Speech Comprehension”. An abstract follows, and after that, the abstracts for several upcoming talks and the rest of the tentative schedule.

Abstract for Sanders’ talk. There is a long history of using ERPs to index semantic and syntactic processing of speech and text. However, we are lacking a measure of phonological processing that can be used with typical language stimuli. We have discovered a potential new ERP effect – a centrally distributed positivity around 100 ms after onset of the incorrect allomorphs on past tense verbs (e.g., walk/d/ and boo/t/) and plural nouns (e.g., back/z/ and shoe/s/). I’ll discuss our current data and plans for future experiments. We would appreciate your input on both!

9/19 Jennie Mack (UMass ComDis)

Title: The role of linguistic prediction in language impairments and recovery in aphasia

Many people with acquired impairments of language (aphasia) have difficulty using grammatical information to support auditory sentence comprehension. In this talk, I will provide evidence from visual-world eye-tracking that these difficulties stem, at least in part, from impaired linguistic prediction. In addition, I will present results from a language intervention study, which examined how the cognitive and neural bases of sentence comprehension change when language abilities recover in stroke-induced aphasia. Participants received 12 weeks of training aimed at improving their sentence production and comprehension abilities, without explicitly training prediction. Training-related improvements in sentence comprehension were associated with improved linguistic prediction (measured using eye-tracking) as well as increased activation in the right-hemisphere homologues of left-hemisphere language regions (measured using fMRI). These results suggest that linguistic prediction plays a key role in language impairments and recovery, and motivate future directions for basic and translational research.

9/26 Ethan Myers (Hampshire)

Title: Decoding the neural algorithms that underlie behavior

In order to understand how the brain enables complex behaviors, a step-by-step account of how information is transformed from sensory input to motor output is needed. To gain insight into such neural algorithms, I have developed ‘population decoding’ data analysis methods that can be used to accurately track what information is in a brain region and how information is coded in neural activity. In this talk I will describe how, in collaboration with experimental neuroscientists, I have applied this method to spiking activity in macaque monkeys to examine: 1) how information is transformed from sensory signals into more abstract representations that are useful for behavior 2) how such representations are modified by task demands (i.e., attention), 3) how high level brain regions that receive this input (i.e., the prefrontal cortex) only selectively represents task relevant information, and 4) how the flow of information flow can be precisely tracked in a simple pop-out attention task. I will also briefly describe a set of tools that can be used to analyze a range of neural signals in order to gain further insight into the algorithms that brain uses to solve tasks.

10/3 Barb Juhasz (Wesleyan)

Using eye movements to explore how experience with words in childhood impacts word recognition during college.

The age at which a word is first acquired has been found to affect word recognition in adulthood. Words that are rated as having an early age-of-acquisition (AoA) are processed faster than words rated as having a late AoA in many tasks. However, even words that are learned early in life may differ in how frequently they are encountered during childhood. Frequency trajectory refers to the pattern of frequency exposure across schooling and can be measured by comparing word frequency counts for texts that are relevant for early elementary students with frequency counts for college-level texts. Some words are more frequent in early grades compared to college (e.g. rabbit) while others become more frequent in college-level texts (e.g. brain). Other words maintain a consistently high or low word frequency across grades. In this talk, I will discuss current research projects that explore the time course of AoA and frequency trajectory effects on eye movements during reading in college students. These projects have demonstrated that both the age at which a word is initially acquired and its pattern of frequency exposure during schooling impact word recognition.

10/10 Cassandra Jacobs (Rochester)
10/17 Safa Zaki (Williams)
10/24 Sam Ling (BU)
10/31 Agnes Lacreuse (UMass PBS)
11/7 No talk on Wednesday; instead Brian Scholl (Yale) will be giving a joint Developmental/Cognitive Colloquium on Monday 11/5, 12:15-1:15
11/14 NO TALK: Monday Schedule
11/21 NO TALK: Thanksgiving
11/28 Jim Magnuson (UConn)
12/5 Philip Thomas (UMass CS)
12/12 Research Ethics (2nd year cognitive students)


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