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External Seminar: ʺWhat Does Semantic Tiling of the Cortex Tell Us About Semantics?ʺ

Tuesday 31 January 2017, 4.00PM to 5.00pm

Speaker(s): Professor Lawrence Barsalou, University of Glasgow

Recent use of voxel-wise modeling in cognitive neuroscience suggests that semantic maps tile the cortex. Although this impressive research establishes distributed cortical areas active during the conceptual processing that underlies semantics, it tells us little about the nature of this processing. While mapping concepts between Marr’s computational and implementation levels to support neural decoding, this approach ignores Marr’s algorithmic level, central for understanding the mechanisms that implement cognition, in general, and conceptual processing, in particular.

Following decades of research in cognitive science and neuroscience, what do we know so far about the mechanisms that implement conceptual processing? Most basically, much is known about the mechanisms associated with: (1) features and frame structure, (2) grounded, abstract, and linguistic representations, (3) knowledge-based inference, (4) concept composition, and (5) conceptual flexibility. Rather than explaining these fundamental conceptual processes, semantic tiles simply provide a trace of their activity over a relatively short time within a specific context. Establishing the mechanisms that implement conceptual processing in the brain will require more than mapping it to cortical (and sub-cortical) activity, with process models from cognitive science likely to play central roles in specifying mechanisms at the algorithmic level.


Host: Dr Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer

Location: PS/B020