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CS Wednesday Talks Spring 2012

May 2, 2012: Anne Leonard, Ph.D., Darwin Fellow, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Flowers help bees cope with uncertainty: signal detection and the function of floral complexity

Abstract: Many organisms produce signals that span multiple sensory modalities, despite the costs and risks of producing a complex and conspicuous display. For example, plants attract pollinators with floral displays comprised of both visual and olfactory stimuli. Yet, the question of why plants produce multimodal flowers remains nearly unexplored. We used Signal Detection Theory to test the hypothesis that multimodal signals reduce pollinators’ uncertainty about individual display components. Specifically, we asked if one signal, odor, improved certainty about the value of another signal, color.  We trained bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) to discriminate between rewarding and unrewarding flowers of slightly different hues (i.e. model and mimic) in either the presence or absence of floral scent. In a test phase, we offered these bees a wide range of floral hues and recorded their ability to identify the hue rewarded during training. We interpreted the extent to which bees’ preferences were biased away from the unrewarding hue (“peak shift”) as an indicator of uncertainty in color discrimination. Our findings suggest that a flower’s scent focuses attention on its hue, thereby facilitating learning and reducing uncertainty about color. More broadly, we suggest that uncertainty reduction can play a key role in the evolution of signal complexity.

Biographical: Anne Leonard completed her dissertation research on the role of acoustic and chemical signals in cricket mate choice at the University of California, Davis, with Ann Hedrick. Her interest in complex signaling led to a postdoc at the University of Arizona with Daniel Papaj, where her research on bumble bees addressed the function of complex floral signals. As a Darwin Fellow at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Anne is pursuing her interests in signal complexity and decision-making under conditions of uncertainty via collaborations with Lynn Adler and Elizabeth Jakob.

April 25:  Screening of CALDERA the "Best Animated Short," at the Rome International Film Festival (RIFF)by Evan Viera, director, and Chris Bishop, co-writer, story artist, and animation supervisor. Both are Hampshire College Alumni in animation, who completed their Div III projects with Chris Perry, associate professor of media arts and sciences, and co-producer and editor of the film.
ORCHID ANIMATION presents the short animated film CALDERA

Film summary: An adolescent girl struggles to balance the dual edges of her psychosis. In the refuge of a mystic oceanic cove, the vibrancy of her mind is embraced and she is able to form bonds with the lifeforms and light of the environment. This enhancement she enjoys, however, is opposed by a demonic manifestation: a dark figure with powers that mirror her own. The being appears wherever her own brilliant glow is allowed to take root, tearing the world around it into jagged debris and bleeding red light. To contain these violent extremes, the girl must dampen herself with medication. A dosage of three white pills drains the color from the world and her own dazzling green eyes, allowing her a muted existence in the insipid gray metropolis where she resides. So diminished is her powerful mind that all she perceives is a vacant monotony devoid of natural elements. With her only choices being the purgatory of a shambling half-life or the unknowable consequences of her unrestrained mania, this unique girl rejects her medication to choose a path beyond that of this marginalizing society.

Biographical statement: Evan Viera is an award winning and emerging filmmaker/composer. His work has shown internationally and has been selected by some of the most competitive festivals. CALDERA is Viera’s first film out of college and had it’s world premiere at South by Southwest in March of 2012. Awards: Best Animated Film - RIFF. Official Selection: Stuttgart Animation Festival, Rome Independent Film Festival.

CALDERA Production History: CALDERA was written in the summer of 2008 by Hampshire College Alumni Evan Viera and Chris Bishop, drawing on their personal relationships with victims of mental illness. The two struggled to balance their teaching positions at Hampshire College and UMASS while working on pre-production out of a spare room in Evan’s apartment. Once the writing and storyboarding was complete, it became clear that they lacked the resources necessary to actually bring their vision to the screen. Meanwhile, Chris Perry, the pair’s former animation instructor at Hampshire College, was in the process of launching the Computer Graphics Incubator Program; a collaborative project that would give students the opportunity to intern with visiting artists in need of the facilities the college could provide. CALDERA proved to be a perfect fit, the two-man team gained the technology and personnel it needed while the college gained a source of real-world experience for its students. In 2010, Evan and Chris launched a highly successful Kickstarter fundraiser which allowed them to expand the team further, incorporating various professionals from around the United States. The resulting interface of the academic world with the independent animation industry has yielded a diverse network of expertise and input; allowing the completion of an ambitious animated short while providing a model for future student/artist collaboration.

Director's Statement: I made CALDERA to attempt to ask questions about the nature of psychosis. How can individuals with disorders integrate themselves into a society in which they cannot function? If an individual must self-medicate before his or her behavior can be considered acceptable, what role has society inadvertently claimed over them? The creative capacity formed in the crucible of a unique psyche may be difficult to see from outside; what potential is lost by dulling the incredible minds that house them? This film is inspired by individuals struggling with psychotic disorders, and with it I hope to honor and acknowledge the brilliant minds forged in the haunted depths of psychosis.

April 18: Lightning Talks! Part II, by students in Cognitive Science.

Emma Opitz, an Independent Study
"An Investigation into the Acoustic Properties of Distress and Alarm Calls in Sciurus carolinensis"
Abstract: Humans use the descending minor third intonation in speech to communicate sadness. The evolutionary implications of this suggest that before language these intonation patterns were used to convey emotion to conspecifics. If this is so than we should be able to see similar patterns of vocalization in nonhuman communication systems. Using the grey squirrel as a subject, vocalizations were recorded and analyzed to look for properties of this or a similar intonation pattern.
The Ray and Lorna Coppinger Endowment  provided funding for this research.

Samuel Emile Rutherford, Division III research
"The effects of anger and depression on attention: An ERP examination of early attentional biases in a forensic sample"

Katherine Mott, Division III research
“Critiquing the Neural Correlates of Consciousness: What Can Neuroscience Say About Phenomenal Consciousness?"
Abstract: In attempting to correlate neural activity to consciously experienced events, neuroscientists may be overreaching in both their reduction of mind and their reliance on correlations. However, there is some evidence that neural activity can be differentiated by its role in the creation of a conscious percept. I discuss my own and a few others' findings to this end, and suggest a more conservative interpretation of the existing data.

Leanna Pohevitz, Division III research
"The Pedagogically Better Option for Learning Arabic: From Research to Textbook Writing: An Analysis and An Answer"

April 11: Lightning Talks! by students in Cognitive Science.

Daniel G. Taub, Division III research
"Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, the Thyroid Axis, and Brain Development"
Abstract: Thyroid hormone is essential for normal brain development. A lack of thyroid hormone during development can result in severe deficits in cognition, I.Q., and psychomotor capabilities. The importance of thyroid hormone during development is emphasized by the fact that every baby born in the United States is screened for thyroid function. Recently, a number of industrial chemicals, termed endocrine disrupting chemicals, have been found to interact with the thyroid axis and subsequently, alter brain development. My work in the Zoeller Lab at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has been examining the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on the thyroid axis and brain development. Using a novel genetic model and analyzing several sensitive endpoints has provided more insight into the molecular foundation of thyroid hormone action in the developing brain
The Ray and Lorna Coppinger Endowment and the Program in Culture, Brain, and Development provided funding for this research.

Dylan Furlong, Division III research
"The Effects of Sleep Quality on the Processing of Emotional Facial Expressions"
Abstract: Sleep deprivation is known to have strong effects on our ability to perceive and respond to emotional stimuli. However, relatively little is known about how sleep deprivation might affect the processing of facial expressions. For my Division III project I examined the effects of sleep deprivation on facial processing using ERP.

Steven Myers, Division III research
"Utilizing Biology and Neuroendocinology to Contextualize Masculine Gender: Sexual Dimorphisms in the Form and Function of the Body and Mind"
Abstract: Gender is often considered a social construct that one's socioeconomic and cultural upbringing, surroundings, and experiences shape. While this is true, biology also plays a role in shaping gender. This work is an exploration of that in two parts, and using sex differences as a starting point. Those parts are: I) How audio visual cues can signal masculinity. Such as: pitch of voice, word choice, gait, and the biometrics of walking. II) How testosterone, vasopressin, and oxytocin act on the brain to produce masculine behavior.

Julie Sargent, Independent Study Research
"Changing Practice Patterns of Deep Brain Stimulation in Parkinson's Disease in the USA"
Abstract: Randomized control studies have shown deep brain stimulation (DBS) to be an effective treatment for Parkinson's disease (PD). Outside of large-center studies, little is known about trends of DBS in the USA . We employ the Nationwide Inpatient Sample to look at changes in DBS utilization over time. We identified all individuals with PD (332.0) and essential tremor (ET) (333.1) who underwent DBS (02.93) from 1998 to 2007. We examined demographics, hospital status, comorbidities and in-hospital systematic/technical complications. DBS patients from 2000 to 2007 were compared using chi-squared tests. PD patients from the 2007 sample who underwent DBS were older (p=0.01). Both ET and PD patients had significantly more comorbidities in 2007 (p<0.001). In hospital complications decreased from 3.8 to 2.8%. DBS was performed in medium or high volume centers in 70% of cases in 2000 and 9n 50% in 2007. In all groups, a majority of cases (range 65-71%) underwent DBS at hospitals in the western and southern USA . Patients who underwent DBS in the 2007 sample were older and had more comorbidities than those in the 2000 sample, in hospital complications remained low. Understanding trends in DBS is helpful in assessing how the technology is adopted and what relationships should be further explored.

Jake Vogel, Division III research
"Confirming and expanding upon differences in resting alpha EEG asymmetry between depressed and non-depressed men. "
Abstract: Differences in resting alpha asymmetry have been consistently found between depressed and non-depressed individuals, in both frontal and parietal scalp sites, suggesting this measure to be a putative state or trait marker for depression. However, this phenomenon has been understudied in males, and existing research has found inconsistent results. Paying close attention to methodological details, EEG was taken and alpha asymmetry compared between depressed and non-depressed men. Results demonstrated a significant linear relationship between depression scores and frontal alpha asymmetry, where individuals with higher depression scores demonstrated more right frontal alpha activity. Temporal and, in particular, parietal channels also revealed interesting depression/alpha asymmetry relationship. These results confirmed findings from a pair of recent studies showing that depressed male alpha asymmetry patterns occur in the opposite direction that of depressed females.
The Ray and Lorna Coppinger Endowment and the Program in Culture, Brain, and Development provided funding for this research.

April 4, 2012: Kathryn Pruitt, adjunct assistant professor of linguistics
Modeling the typology of word-level rhythm in language
Abstract: Typological modeling in linguistic theory aims to capture generalizations about human languages by providing an explicit formalization of their considerable variation, while at the same time accounting for the ways in which they are fundamentally similar.  In this talk I will discuss the application of typological models to linguistic rhythm in the form of word-level stress patterns, with two main goals: (1) to illustrate the diversity of stress patterns across languages, and (2) to demonstrate the formal methods that are used to model this diversity.  The general framework for typological modeling is Optimality Theory, which accounts for variation across languages with a set of competing pressures whose priority differs between languages.  Time-permitting, I will also discuss recent refinements to Optimality Theory that improve its ability to accurately model actual stress patterns and distinguish them from others that are logically possible but which are not found in any known language.

Biographical: Kathryn Pruitt, adjunct assistant professor of linguistics, received a B.A. in music and linguistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research centers around the sound structures of language, particularly linguistic prosody. She has conducted research on theoretical approaches to the typology of linguistic rhythm, the meaning and interpretation of intonational contours in questions in English, and accounting for phonological patterns by modeling language change. Other interests include mental representations of linguistic knowledge and the relationship between language acquisition and language change. She also has a keen interest in statistics and in methodologies of linguistic data collection.

March 28, 2012: Erik Thomsen, founder of DSS Labs
Unifying Syntax and Semantics:  From the historical rift between Russell and Wittgenstein and the present day gap between the predicate calculus and lexical analysis to its impact on NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming)
Abstract: Thousands of person-years of effort have failed to produce a robust NLP system using the consensus foundations consisting of:
* The predicate calculus (with the possible addition of frames a la Cyc) as a logical method for representing  (and reasoning with) the semantics of the sentence, and
*Lexical/syntactic categories (e.g., noun, verb, adjective, article etc.) as a linguistic method for representing the atomic functions (or terminal nodes) that attach to words.
Maybe the foundations are misguided. Maybe there is no fundamental distinction between syntax and semantics. Maybe they’re like Hesperus and Phosphorus.
In this talk I will share some of my research and real world application stories suggesting that syntax and semantics are one and the same. Towards that end, significant problems will be raised regarding the predicate calculus, a new logic based on cognitive processing will be introduced, and examples showing how it can impact NLP will be given.

Biographical: Erik Thomsen is a researcher and architect for intelligent information systems and their logical foundations. DSS (Decision Support Systems) Lab was founded in 1999 by Erik Thomsen and George Spofford, two internationally recognized pioneers in business intelligence 'BI', and decision support systems 'DSS' (also called performance management). Our mission is to make best use of available technologies to provide our clients with long lasting information solutions they can trust. If the right technology exists off the shelf, we use it. If we need to work with different pieces of technology to solve our client's problem, we do so. And if a needed technology doesn't exist, we will try to invent it, or reach into our network for those who can. Which is why we are heavily invested in research and collaboration. These days we are very involved in the cognitive problems of interpretation, representation, belief management and analysis.

March 14, 2012: Tom Cain, visiting assistant professor of psychology, School of Cognitive Science
Fear, politics, and leader selection: How our emotional state may influence what we look for in a president
Abstract: Fear and anger are very similar emotions, yet they elicit contrasting perceptions of risk. In general, fear leads to an increase in risk perception, while anger leads to a decrease in risk perception. This will be a discussion of whether we may seek to regain feelings of certainty and control, when afraid, by seeking out an angry or aggressive leader. Will fearful people seek out an angry leader as a perceived (though not necessarily consciously) way to reduce fear? Will a fear related political campaign lead people to find an angry/aggressive presidential candidate more appealing? Scientific and anecdotal evidence will be discussed.

Biographical: Tom Cain, visiting assistant professor of psychology, received a Ph.D. in social psychology from Rutgers University and a B.A. in psychology from DePaul University. He is teaching CS-145 "Social Psychology of Stereotyping" this term. Tom is currently interested in examining the ways in which fear may bias a person’s perceptions, judgments, and behavior. He is particularly interested in how these biases may impact person perception. Additionally, Tom has conducted research on, or has been generally interested in, the psychological processes involved in political affiliation, intergroup relations, and the willingness to commit genocide.

March 7, 2012: Jennifer Corns, Five College Fellow at Mount Holyoke College and postdoctoral research fellow with The Pain Project at the University of Glasgow.
Pain and Idiosyncrasy
Abstract: The last 30 years of pain research has resulted in the increased complexity and generality of the dominant models of pain. Correspondingly, the traditional medical model of pain that seeks to eliminate pain by eliminating a presumed underlying pathology has come in for scrutiny. Antagonists advocate a mechanism-based classification approach, sometimes dubbed “pain analysis.” The goal of this approach is to categorize pain, by types, as a function of correlations between symptoms and signs and the activity of underlying mechanisms. The problem is that the hoped-for correlations are not forthcoming. What we are finding instead is that each token pain involves the activity of multiple mechanisms, no one of which is reliably correlated with pain or any pain “type.” Moreover, the convergence of the activity of these multiple mechanisms is idiosyncratic. In this talk, I’ll present reasons for thinking that each token pain is explained by an idiosyncratic convergence of activity across multiple mechanisms and argue that this idiosyncrasy undermines the reliability of generalizations about both pain and pain “types” for treatment purposes. I’ll conclude by exploring the implications of idiosyncrasy for understanding the relationship between everyday, folk types and mechanistic explanations in cognitive science more generally.

Biographical: Jennifer Corns specializes in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. She is interested in understanding how everyday, folk-psychological categories can be appropriately employed in ethics and scientific inquiry. Her Ph.D. dissertation, Pain is Not a Natural Kind, was completed under the supervision of Jesse Prinz at the City University of New York Graduate Center. She is currently a Five College Fellow at Mount Holyoke College and Postdoctoral Research Fellow with The Pain Project at the University of Glasgow.

February 29, 2012: Jonathan Westphal, vsiting professor of philosophy
The Kiss of Plato: Epistemology Comes of Age; Falls Fast Asleep; and May Awaken Yet...
Abstract: Every epistemology, be it ne’er so deviant, and every cognitive science, be it ne’er so scientific, needs an account of non-basic knowledge, if it is not to consist only of the dust and ashes of data. Plato defined knowledge as “true belief plus a logos” (an account, reason, explanation or justification). This was orthodoxy until in 1963 Gettier gave two celebrated and destructive counterexamples. I describe four of the countless failed attempts to deal with the counterexamples over the last fifty years, before philosophers more or less gave up the attempt, as well as my own modest contribution. I will give an account of knowledge as true belief with a logos. However, the logos is not just a subjective justification, but also includes a justification in an objective dimension. Plato’s account of logos at the end of the Theatetus was sufficiently dark for no one to be able to say that this was not his meaning.

Biographical: Jonathan Westphal, visiting professor of philosophy, received his B.A. from Harvard College, M.A. from the University of Sussex, and Ph.D. from the University of London. He has taught at the University of Hawaii, the University of London, Idaho State University, and at other colleges and universities in the U.K. and the U.S. He was an Alexander von Humbolt Fellow at the University of Munich, and is a Permanent Member of the Senior Common Room at University College, Oxford. ##He has written a book on the philosophy of colour (Colour: a Philosophical Introduction, Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, 2nd ed,) and a number of articles on time, the latest one on the concept of the future.

February 22, 2012: Presentations by students in Paul Dickson's Web Design and Game Design classes and a Div III

Allxie Cleary, Breton Handy, Keenan Villani-Holland, Thanh Tuan Nguyen
Swapshire: Hampshire's New Online Marketplace

Abstract: Creators of Swapshire, Hampshire's new online marketplace, will give a presentation about the website. Swapshire was developed in Paul Dickson's Web Application Jan term course, and these students are looking to share their work with the school and get feedback about how to make Swapshire optimal for you, the Hampshire community.

Paul Sawaya: Div III Project
Watchdog: Proactively Encouraging Privacy and Security on the Web

Abstract: It often isn't clear what we can do to improve our security or privacy on the web. The Watchdog project, a collaboration between myself and the Identity team at Mozilla Labs, consists of a series of experiments designed to enhance the web browser with features that will advise the user to make wise decisions. There are many different features in development, but I'll be showing off automatic visual hashing inside of the web browser, password use visualizations, and browser automation used to automatically collect privacy settings data.

David Nishbal and Christian Hall
Silicon Frogs presents: Revolting Vegetable

Silicon Frogs, the Game Design and Development group at Hampshire, has spent the last four months working on their first game: Revolting Vegetable. In this talk, members of the team will demonstrate the game and discuss the methods and software they used to create it.

February 15, 2012: Bob Davis, adjunct assistant professor of psychology in the School of Cognitive Science
The current evidence base for using neurotherapy to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of ADHD

Abstract: There is a large and rapidly evolving literature on the effectiveness of neurotherapy approaches in the treatment of many psychological, behavioral and medical disorders. Evidence-based neurotherapy approaches are rooted in current neuroscientific research, are non-invasive, do not involve medication and are not associated with any significant negative side effects.  The effectiveness of neurotherapy interventions has been demonstrated for a range of psychological disorders, including symptoms associated with ADHD, Asperger’s/autism, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury (TBI), sleep difficulties, and substance abuse. My talk will briefly review the history of neurotherapeutic approaches and describe several treatment modalities, with an emphasis on the current evidence base for using neurotherapy to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of ADHD.

Biographical: Bob Davis is adjunct assistant professor of psychology in the School of Cognitive Science and is teaching “Trauma and Resilience:  Working with Youth with Histories of Trauma” this term.  He received his doctorate from Rutgers University and completed postdoctoral fellowships in both Behavioral Medicine and Trauma at Harvard University Medical School.

February 8, 2012: Thom Long, Five College assistant professor of architectural studies
The Creativity Center at Hampshire College.

The Creativity Center was founded in 2011 to foster imaginative thinking and collaboration across fields of knowledge. In keeping with Hampshire’s tradition of pedagogical innovation, and in an effort to intentionally affirm the central role of creativity at the College, the Creativity Center helps students, faculty, staff, and alumni connect in physical and intellectual settings designed to spark creativity and social change. It supports new pedagogical approaches and curriculum development, including re-imagining existing courses as well as faculty and student projects. The center creates space for the risk-taking and creative surprises that come from connecting imaginative people in a resource-rich environment. Inventive ideas and solutions will come from the work of designers, scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and humanists, from a variety of fields and interdisciplinary clusters across campus. The center establishes a dynamic network of programs, physical spaces, and a campus community dedicated to interdisciplinary work.

Biographical: Thom Long is Five College assistant professor of architectural studies, he holds a B.Arch. from Roger Williams University and an M.S. in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Thom is a practicing architect and graphic/media designer, and is the founder and Creative director of visionLaboratory in Northampton. His work, in practice and theory, explores concepts of communication through and across various design disciplines, working on a broad range of projects including architecture, print and web design, corporate branding, film and multimedia, and interior design. He works collaboratively with a network of architects, artists, and designers on a wide range of international memorials, residential, and interior design projects. He has taught architecture studios at Columbia University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As a Five College joint-appointed professor, he teaches a variety of architecture and design courses at Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Amherst College.

February 1, 2012:  Karen Danna, postdoctoral fellow in the Culture, Brain, and Development Program.
Making Mental Errors: How the Flaws and Foibles of our Cognitive Systems Affect our Social Lives.
Abstract:  In this work-in-progress, I integrate sociological, psychological, and neurological perspectives to inform an analysis of mental errors and everyday mistakes. I present empirical data garnered from interviews with working parents to demonstrate how known brain processing errors (such as ‘choking on thought’ or the ‘over-valuing of immediate rewards’) translate into socio-cultural patterns of behavior. I link these patterns to the organization of everyday social life as well as the organization of culture. I demonstrate, for instance, not only how the limitations of the brain effect the types of mistakes and errors people commonly make, but how American culture is organized in ways that promulgate (rather than alleviate) these errors. In this way, the multidisciplinary bio-social lens employed in this study contributes to an understanding of mental mistakes that spans multiple levels of analyses simultaneously (from the individual to the collective).

Biographical: Karen Danna is postdoctoral fellow for the Program in Culture, Brain, and Development and is teaching "What's So Funny? Humor, Cognition, and the Brain" this term. Karen received her B.A. in sociology and philosophy from Rutgers University. She earned her Ph.D. in sociology with an emphasis on culture and cognition from Rutgers University. Karen’s research interests are centered at the intersection of sociology, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. She has been exploring how automatic and deliberate brain processes affect the organization of everyday social life and patterns of interaction among different thought communities. In addition, she has conducted research on decision-making, symbol systems, the social construction of knowledge, mistakes and errors, and processes of joint cognition.

 
 

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