PAST SEMINARS IN SOCIETY AND NEUROSCIENCE


Sound Studies and Auditory Neuroscience: New Perspectives on Listening
May 1, 2017

Speakers:
Tim Griffiths, Professor of Cognitive Neurology, Newcastle University, UK
Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, Professor and Director of the Music Cognition Lab, University of Arkansas
Ana Maria Ochoa, Professor of Music, Columbia University

Moderator: Nori Jacoby, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

Listening to sounds is fundamental to how we experience our environment and ourselves. In recent years, both the humanities and sciences have become increasingly invested in the interrelation between the environment and the listening experience. This seminar features leading scholars from auditory neuroscience, sound studies, and music cognition discussing scientific and humanistic perspectives on the role of acoustic conditions and cultural exposure on the formation of the sense of hearing itself.



The Human Sense of Smell
April 13, 2017

Speakers:
Barry C. Smith, Director of the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Clare Batty, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Kentucky
Donald Wilson, Professor at the Departments of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Physiology, NYU School of Medicine
Avery Gilbert, Smell Scientist, Entrepreneur, and Author
Christophe Laudamiel, Master Perfumer, Scent Composer, Lecturer, Writer, and Chemist Champion

Moderator: Ann-Sophie Barwich, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

How does our brain make sense of scents and flavors? To explore the human sense of smell in its perceptual, neural, and cultural dimensions, the panel brings together cross-disciplinary perspectives from neuroscience, philosophy, and perfumery



Neuroscience in the Body: Perspectives at the Periphery
March 6, 2017

Speakers:
Narendra S. Bhatt, Honorary Research Director and Adjunct Professor, BVDU College of Ayurveda, Pune, India
Ellen A. Lumpkin, Associate Professor of Somatosensory Biology in Dermatology and Physiology & Cellular Biophysics, Columbia University
Peter Wayne, Associate Professor of Medicine and Research Director for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Moderator: Lan A. Li, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University


Presidential Scholars Research Symposium
February 13, 2017

Speakers:
David Barack, PhD, 2015 Presidential Scholar
Respondents: Christopher Peacocke (Philosophy), Daniel Salzman (Neuroscience), Michael Woodford (Economics)
Ann-Sophie Barwich, PhD, 2015 Presidential Scholar
Respondents: Stuart Firestein (Biological Sciences), Christopher Peacocke (Philosophy)
Andrew Goldman, PhD, 2015 Presidential Scholar
Respondents: Daphna Shohamy (Psychology), Paul Sajda (Biomedical Engineering)

Moderator: Pamela Smith; Seth Low Professor of History, Director of the Center for Science and Society

This event included presentations from several of our Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience and their mentors, who discussed their current cross-disciplinary research and findings. The Research Symposium provided a platform for the Presidential Scholars to demonstrate what interdisciplinary research looks like in practice.


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The Transmission of Knowledge: Tool Use and Cognition
December 12, 2016

Speakers:
Nicola Clayton, PhD, Professor of Comparative Cognition, Cambridge University
Alex Martin, PhD, Chief, Section on Cognitive Neuropsychology, Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health
Ian Tattersall, PhD, Curator Emeritus of Human Origins, Division of Anthropology and Professor Emeritus, Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History

Moderator: David Barack, PhD, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

Once thought the province of only the most intelligent primates — namely humans — a wide variety of species, including octopuses, birds, and bees are now known to make and use tools for their own goals.  Not only do many species besides humans craft and use tools, some have been shown to pass on their knowledge as material culture, shared with other members of the species and younger generations. In this seminar, the speakers will discuss preliminary insights into the neural mechanisms underlying the complex and often social activity that is tool use, as well as the manifestation and transmission of this knowledge.  What is the importance of tools as a category of items that we can manipulate in the environment, and how have our brains evolved to process this type of information? Why have so many animals from across the evolutionary tree evolved the ability to use tools, as well as the cognitive capacity to learn from others?


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Characterizing Animals in Science and Fiction 
November 28, 2016

Speakers:
Alexandra Horowitz, PhD, Adjunct Associate Professor, Barnard College; author of Inside of a Dog
Jonathan Losos, PhD, Monique and Philip Lehner Professor for the Study of Latin America, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Curator in Herpetology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
Harriet Ritvo, PhD, Arthur J. Conner Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Moderators: Matteo Farinella, PhD, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University and Lan A. Li, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

Animals play a central role in human imagination.  We study them, worship them, and domesticate them.  We use animals to tell some of our most popular stories.  But what do our characterizations of animals tell us about us? In other words, to what extent can cultural and scientific practices of characterizing animals reveal aspects of human (and animal) cognition?  How do attributions of “human” characteristics to “other” animals simultaneously blur and fortify distinctions among these classifications?  Our panelists approach these questions from perspectives in history, literature, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience.  Harriet Ritvo will consider the boundaries between humans and animals in fiction and fantasy, Jonathan Losos will explore cultural fascinations with domesticity through the science of cats, and Alexandra Horowitz will discuss the physical and psychological curiosities of anthropomorphism in dogs.


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Theory of Mind
October 20, 2016

Speakers:
Joshua Knobe, PhD, Professor of Philosophy and Psychology and Linguistics, Yale University
Laurie Santos, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Yale University
Rebecca Saxe, PhD, Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Moderator: Patricia Kitcher, PhD, Roberta and William Campbell Professor of the Humanities, Columbia University

Theory of mind is the ability to make inferences about the mental and emotional states of others. Understanding that one’s thoughts, knowledge, desires, motives, and feelings can be different than those of someone else is a skill that takes young children many years to develop, and it requires the interrelated activity of a network of regions within the brain. How does theory of mind affect the way in which people interact with each other and make social, emotional, and even moral decisions? Is theory of mind unique to humans, or can other animals comprehend the intentions of their own and other species?

Spring 2016


Neuroscience and Education
May 2, 2016

Speakers:
David Hansen, PhD, John L & Sue Ann Weinberg Professor in Historical & Philosophical Foundations of Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD, Associate Professor of Education, Psychology & Neuroscience, University of Southern California
Kimberly Noble, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Moderator: Andrew Goldman, PhD, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

As our understanding of neuroscience grows, so too does our potential ability to apply that knowledge to the betterment of society.  Education is a clear example of this; a scientific understanding of how we learn can help us form more effective ways to teach.  In order for this enterprise to be successful, we must reflect on what educational challenges face society today, where and how, specifically, neuroscience might help us structure policy and pedagogy, and the moral and ethical principles that define what education is and question what it ought to be.

The seminar footage is divided into four sections; please click on the “playlist” icon in the top left corner of the video above to access all of the videos featured in this playlist.

 


Prediction: How Forecasting and Prospection Shape Thought ?
April 18, 2016

Speakers:
David Danks, PhD, Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University
Karl Friston, MBBS, MRCPsych, Wellcome Principal Research Fellow and Scientific Director, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging; Professor of Neurology, University College London
Carol Krumhansl, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Cornell University

Moderator: Christopher Peacocke, PhD, Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University

Prediction plays a fundamental role in cognition. Accurate prediction allows humans and other animals to act in ways that anticipate future states of the environment, potentially reducing the threat posed by dangers and increasing the benefits of positive events. Prediction also permits cognitive systems to forecast what will happen beyond the next instant, or forecast what would happen were the world different. Cognitive systems can plan, strategize, and learn by using prediction and forecasting to adapt to a changing environment.

The theory of predictive coding suggests that higher cortical areas integrate environmental information from perception and sensation and contextual information from memory to generate hypotheses about the state of the world. Subsequent sensory feedback is integrated into this information to help detect differences between the original hypothesis and the actual state. These differences, called prediction errors, can be utilized to update hypotheses, generating new predictions about how the environment is changing. In the past two decades, theory and research has made central the importance of predictive coding in the computational foundations of both human perception and cognition and machine learning. In this seminar, the merits and pitfalls of this approach to understanding the brain and cognition will be explored.

The seminar footage is divided into four sections; please click on the “playlist” icon in the top left corner of the video above to access all of the videos featured in this playlist.


The Perception of Time
February 22, 2016

Speakers:
C. Randy Gallistel, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers, The State University of NJ
David Laibson, PhD, Robert I. Goldman Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Department of Economics, Harvard University
Michael Shadlen, MD, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience and HHMI Investigator, Columbia University

Moderator: Daphna Shohamy, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Columbia University

Most living things have evolved with an innate sense of the passing of time. Humans, and perhaps many other species, have the ability to estimate relatively short and long periods of time and can remember specific events in their lives in the context of time. How is time experienced and encoded in the brain, and how are memories created and kept on the spectrum of time? If we utilize both time and memory information to make predictions about the world, how does the degree of accuracy with which imagined future events can be located in time affect the coherence of the decisions that we make?

This seminar will explore the fields of neuroscience, psychology and economics to discuss what we know about how people and other animals are able to be aware of the passage of time, the relationship between time and memory, and the behavioral consequences of accuracy or inaccuracy in the perception of time.

The seminar footage is divided into four sections; please click on the “playlist” icon in the top left corner of the video above to access all of the videos featured in this playlist.

 

Fall 2015


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Difficult Decisions: The Complexities of Choice in the Real World
December 14, 2015

Speakers:
Alessandra Casella, PhD, Professor of Economics, Columbia University
L. A. Paul, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Michael Platt, PhD, James S. Riepe University Professor in the Departments of Psychology, Neuroscience and Marketing, University of Pennsylvania

Moderator: David Barack, PhD, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

In the Odyssey, Agamemnon faces the classic tragic choice: he must decide whether or not to sacrifice his daughter to the goddess Artemis so that she will rekindle the wind for the Greek warships to sail to Troy. With the sacrifice, he loses his daughter; without it, he loses command.

The real world is full of difficult decisions like Agamemnon’s, albeit rarely to the same degree. These include decisions that act against our self-interests (so-called ‘akratic actions’) or primarily benefit others (altruistic actions), decisions motivated by factors besides reward (such as for information or prestige), and decisions that hold only the possibility of an uncertain reward in the uncertain future (such as deciding to invest in an education). These decision contexts often lack a best course. Despite these complexities, immediate rewards and optimal analyses remain the central focus of research on decision-making in economics, psychology, and neuroscience. These fields typically rely on subjects earning the most money, points, or treats to investigate the neural and computational mechanisms of decision-making.

Can the computational processes involved in real-life decisions be described using these basic models of motivation and reward, or must we develop a new set of tools? Is it possible to circumvent the optimal perspective of decision-making, or can we only make sense of the best decisions? Can an analysis of decision-making reflect the intuitively diverse reasons for which people act, or must all decisions, ultimately, invoke some reward ― if not now, then in the future, and if not in our future, then for our legacy or our community? In this seminar, our panelists will discuss these difficult decisions that shape our lives and our world.

The seminar footage is divided into four sections; please click on the “playlist” icon in the top left corner of the video above to access all of the videos featured in this playlist.


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What Can Neuroscience Offer the Study of Creativity?
November 23, 2015

Speakers:
Rex Jung, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, University of New Mexico
James Kaufman, PhD, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Connecticut
Colleen Thomas-Young, Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Dance, Barnard College

Moderator: Andrew Goldman, PhD, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

Questions about creativity from artistic, sociological, psychological, biological, computational, philosophical, and other perspectives have long asked how people (and machines) generate ideas, solve problems, and create works of art.  Historical and anthropological studies teach us how concepts like “creativity” and “genius” are contingent and change over time and place.  Recent advances in neuroscience offer a new perspective with potential contributions to an explanation of the mechanisms, development, and origins of human creative faculties.  How can neuroscience most effectively complement these other disciplines?  What does it have to offer?  What are its limitations?  How could it benefit from other perspectives on creativity?

The seminar footage is divided into four sections; please click on the “playlist” icon in the top left corner of the video above to access all of the videos featured in this playlist.

 


Understanding Cognition through Development - Nov 2

Understanding Cognition through Development: What Do Animals, Children and Science Have in Common?
November 2, 2015

Speakers:
Kristin Andrews, PhD, Associate Professor of Philosophy, York University
Stuart Firestein, PhD, Professor of Biological Sciences, Columbia University
Peter Gordon, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Moderator: Ann-Sophie Barwich, PhD, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

What is cognition? Inquiry about the architecture of the mind has been approached from different perspectives in neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science, and philosophy. Cognition involves a plethora of complex processes such as learning, inference-making, and anticipation. Comparative studies of animal behavior and child development may allow for a more integrated approach to understand cognition as a unified developmental and collective strategy.

The seminar footage is divided into four sections; please click on the “playlist” icon in the top left corner of the video above to access all of the videos featured in this playlist.


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