Colloquium Schedule

Institute of Cognitive Science Colloquium Schedule

All colloquia take place on Friday from 12:00 to 2:00 pm (unless otherwise noted) in Room D428 and D430 on the fourth floor of the Muenzinger Psychology Building.

If you have questions, please call the ICS Office at 303-492-5063.

Spring 2017

January 16, 2017
Martin Luther King Day - University Closed

January 17, 2017
First Day of Classes

January 27, 2017
Aaron Clauset

Assistant Professor, Computer Science, University of Colorado Boulder

Title: The Ground Truth About Metadata and Community Detection in Networks

Abstract: Community detection is one of the most common tasks in network analysis, in which we seek to decompose a network into its underlying structural modules or groups by examining only the pattern of connections in the network. The quality of community detection methods are typically evaluated by how closely the communities they find correlate with node "metadata", which are empirically observed labels on nodes, e.g., a person's ethnicity in a social network or the brain region in a connectome.

In this talk, I will present two results on community detection and node metadata. First, I'll show that it is theoretically impossible, via a No Free Lunch theorem, for one community detection algorithm to be universally better than any other. This result further implies that no community detection method can always recover the "ground truth" communities in a network. However, by using node metadata to guide the community detection process, rather than as an evaluation target, better community detection results can often be obtained. To illustrate this point, I'll introduce a Bayesian model that can learn the correlation between node metadata and network communities, if any exists. The learned correlations are interesting in their own right, and allow us to make predictions about the community membership of nodes whose network connections are unknown. After sketching the method, I'll demonstrate it on synthetic networks with known structure, where the method performs better than any algorithm can without metadata, and on real-world networks, large and small, drawn from social, biological, and technological domains. This is joint work with Leto Peel, Daniel B. Larremore, and Mark Newman.

February 3, 2017
Christopher A. Lowry
Associate Professor, Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder

Title: An Immunization Strategy for Prevention of Stress-Related Psychiatric Disorders

Abstract: Novel prevention and treatment strategies are urgently needed to reduce the burden of stress-related psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). Both preclinical and clinical studies suggest that inflammation increases vulnerability to development of anxiety and affective disorders. Consequently, immunoregulatory strategies to decrease inflammation have potential for the prevention and treatment of these disorders. Using a murine model of chronic psychosocial stress, the chronic subordinate colony housing (CSC) model, we found immunization with a heat-killed preparation of Mycobacterium vaccae, a bioimmunomodulatory agent previously shown to activate regulatory T cells (Treg) and to increase production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, prevented development of a PTSD-like syndrome. Immunization with M. vaccae antigen induced a more proactive emotional coping style during exposure to a dominant aggressor, and, in association with suppression of proinflammatory cytokine secretion, prevented stress-induced development of spontaneous colitis and aggravation of colitis in a model of inflammatory bowel disease. Analysis suggests that the protective effects of M. vaccae immunization are due to protection from a stress-induced proinflammatory gut microbial community. Consistent with this hypothesis, protective effects of immunization were absent following Treg depletion. These data provide a hypothetical framework for development of novel strategies for prevention of stress-related psychiatric disorders in vulnerable individuals. Clinical studies investigating the microbiome and potential health benefits of treatment with immunoregulatory probiotics in Veterans with PTSD are ongoing.

February 10, 2017
Philip Weiser
Hatfield Professor of Law, Executive Director of the Silicon Flatirons Center, Faculty Director, Campus Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Dean Emeritus (School of Law); University of Colorado Boulder

Topic: Why Every Academic Needs to Be An Innovator and Entrepreneur

Abstract: The changing dynamics affecting higher education call on all faculty, staff, and students to develop innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets because the world around us is changing faster than ever before. This vision is both compatible with and supportive of the traditional commitment to liberal arts education. It requires, however, that those involved in higher education recognize the changing financial pressures, the evolving employment marketplace, and the competencies that are valued in the 21st century economy and society.

For higher education to adjust and thrive in the twenty first century, it must adopt an innovation mindset in order to ensure that students will benefit from their investment in undergraduate or graduate experiences. Using the challenges faced by law schools as a case study (applications to law school declined by 40% in the wake of the Great Recession), Professor Weiser will explain how an innovation mindset can help the University of Colorado Boulder thrive as the higher education environment continues to evolve.

February 24, 2017
Keith Lohse
Assistant Professor, School of Kinesiology, Rehabilitation Informatics Lab, Auburn University

Title: Streamlining Clinical Science with Structured Data Archives: Data-Driven Insights from the Stroke Rehabilitation Literature.
Abstract: Significant recent advances in bibliometrics have focused on how to utilize text mining approaches to organize a scientific discipline based on author networks, keywords and/or references cited. While these approaches can provide very useful insights, they fail to capture important experimental data that are embedded within many scientific disciplines. A major objective of my work is to examine how experimental data can be used to organize the literature within a discipline and identify its key gaps. This approach is especially important to disciplines that rely heavily on randomized control trials (RCTs), as many of these studies have similar information architecture with common data elements (CDEs) acquired at similar times. Using stroke rehabilitation as an informative example, I will present a massively systematic review of the literature: the Centralized Open-Access Rehabilitation database for Stroke (SCOAR).  Using SCOAR as an example, I will show how primary research can be supplemented by meta-scientific research, informatics, and interactive data-visualization. These tools highlight sources of systematic variability in the outcomes of medical interventions and, in turn, provide insights to practitioners and identify opportunities for future research. I hope to make this talk exciting for a broad audience as the meta-scientific approach is fruitful for anyone pursuing experimental work, and medical informatics draws on numerous ICS disciplines from information science (for ontology), to neuroscience (for the subject matter), to computer science (for our interactive visualizations).

March 10, 2017
Brett Fling
Assistant Professor, Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Neurosciences Program, Colorado State University; Director, Sensorimotor Neuroimaging Laboratory

Title: Gait and Balance - Neural Mechanisms and Markers of Neuroplasticity

Abstract: Although diagnostic assessment via clinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been in use for decades, only recently have advanced MR techniques been utilized in the research setting to investigate neural mechanisms underlying gait and balance control, to identify biomarkers for disease progression, and to assess therapeutic intervention efficacy. Functional MRI (fMRI) has been used extensively in a variety of stimulus-response paradigms to identify regions of task-specific neural activity. More recently, functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) has revealed that the brain is very active even in the absence of explicit input or output. That is to say, spontaneous fluctuations in neural activity is not random noise, but is specifically organized in the resting human brain and serves as a potentially important and revealing manifestation of spontaneous neuronal activity providing insight into the intrinsic functional architecture and topography of the brain and potential physiological correlates of disease and mobility impairment. Finally, emerging literature is making use of diffusion weighted imaging within the MR environment to identify associations between white matter microstructural integrity and locomotor control. Combining functional MR approaches with diffusion imaging allows for a comprehensive assessment of neural structure and function.

While exciting advances have been made; the study of gait and balance with MR-based methods is clearly hampered by the inability to actually stand and/or move within the MRI environment, which would allow recording brain activity evoked by actual locomotion. To address this limitation, several MR-compatible approaches have been developed to provide indirect evidence of supraspinal involvement in locomotion. These approaches have identified brain activity patterns during imagined actions such as standing, walking, and running, as well as neural activity while actually performing voluntary or passive lower limb movements inside the scanner. The latter studies have incorporated diverse levels of complexity, from the evaluation of isolated, unilateral, and repetitive ankle and knee movements to more complex tasks that require coordinated movements of multiple joints reflective of stepping or pedaling actions.

This talk will provide insight into the structural and functional brain circuitry that underlie locomotor control identified via MR-based methodologies. In addition, I will discuss recent work detailing structural and functional neural mechanisms that are, at least in part, responsible for impairments in locomotor control that accompany healthy aging and select neurologic populations including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

March 27-31, 2017
Spring Break

April 7, 2017
Anna Spain Bradley

Associate Professor of Law; Assistant Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Diversity; University of Colorado Law School

Title: The Impact of One - How Individual Choice Shapes International Law

Abstract: International law is the product of decisions taken by nations that consent to a treaty or conform to an international norm. But international law is also a product of the choices certain individuals, empowered by their governments, make. It is formed when diplomats negotiate treaties on behalf of sovereign states. It is interpreted when international judges reach a groundbreaking judicial opinion. It is expanded when those who sit on the Security Council agree to authorize military intervention to prevent genocide. In this way, international law is more than institutional decisions. It is also the result of individual choices made by one, or a handful of people, on behalf of many. These few individuals, be they selected or elected, exercise commanding yet often concealed control over the course of international law. The Impact of One: How Individual Choice Shapes International Law is an exploration of individual choice in international law.

The book charts important decision moments about challenging situations made by international institutions within the United Nations. It analyzes the role that particular individuals, serving as judges at the International Court of Justice or representatives at the U.N. Security Council, play in shaping decision outcomes that influence and are influenced by international law. The book applies insights from neuroscience to assert the importance of analyzing decision-making from a cognitive perspective about how factors like emotion and empathy can influence how people make choices. It integrates this investigation into the neurobiology of human choice with existing discourses about international law and state behavior. Drawing upon historical accounts and personal interviews, The Impact of One reveals the struggle, calculation and unconscious influences that factor into decision-making at the highest level. This analysis aims to reveal the connection between institutional decisions taken under the imprimatur of law and the people privileged to make them. For example, we readily accept that international judges are qualified to apply the law to the facts of a case but rarely question how their emotions about that case might affect their cognitive functions implicated in deciding. We understand that law, in the form of Article 42 of the U.N. Charter, permits the Security Council to authorize forceful intervention into a nation in conflict but fail to appreciate how a representative’s own history and bias might influence her vote. By clarifying the distinction between institutional choice and individual choice, The Impact of One humanizes international legal decision-making, illustrating how law is shaped by the people empowered to make it. In turn, individual choice is influenced by an array of factors from emotion to empathy that influence cognitive functions like reasoning and memory. In understanding international law through this lens of individual choice, The Impact of One calls for deeper analysis and critique of how institutions settle on who gets to decide matters of global impact and importance. Ultimately, The Impact of One aims to deepen readers’ understanding about the realities of human choice, its flaws, its potential and its instrumental role in influencing international law. The conclusion is both disruptive and meaningful - who decides matters - especially at the centers of international power and authority.

April 21, 2017
Al Kim
Associate Professor, Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado Boulder

Title: The Neurocognitive Mechanisms of On-Line Language Comprehension: the Interplay of Prediction and Integration.

Abstract: Language comprehension is a race against time, requiring comprehenders to process a rapidly arriving sequence of words (one every ~250 msec) and to perceive each word and combine it with a larger message-level representation without falling behind the input. Classic views of language comprehension envision a compositional process, in which the brain responds to each new word in the linguistic input by building a hierarchically organized representation from the bottom to the top, beginning with perceptual features and cascading up to word representations, syntactic analysis, and semantic interpretation. This view places enormous time pressure on the system to complete the bottom-to-top cascade within a short period. An increasingly influential idea about how we solve the time problem posits that we predict aspects of the future linguistic input using context, allowing faster responses when the input arrives. But the predictive solution can’t explain everything, because language is fundamentally creative, and this will cause predictions to be futile or wrong in some situations. Thus, language comprehension must be a mixture of predictive and integrative processes.  I will describe event-related brain potential (ERP) studies in my lab that investigate the interplay of predictive and integrative processes during on-line sentence comprehension. We find that semantic and discourse-level processing can dominate sentence understanding in a predictive manner and also systematic limitations in the impact of predictions, which can vary as a function of the linguistic situation and individual cognitive abilities of language comprehenders.

April 25, 2017 *at 3:00 PM, Tuesday*
Andy Clark
Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, University of Edinburgh

Title: Only Predict? On the Nature, Scope and Falsifiability of Predictive Processing

Abstract: Recent work in computational and cognitive neuroscience depicts the brain as an ever-active prediction machine. In this talk, I first show how these stories encompass a wide variety of routes to adaptive response. These include rich, knowledge-driven processing, but also more ‘fast and frugal’ action-involving solutions of the kind highlighted by work in robotics and embodied cognition. The ‘predictive processing’ framework thus shows great promise as a means of both understanding and integrating many of the core information processing strategies underlying perception, thought, and action. But this leaves many questions unanswered. Can a story that posits prediction error minimization as cognitive bedrock accommodate the undoubted attractions of novelty and exploration? Is it falsifiable? What is the true scope of this story – can it really be a theory of ‘everything cognitive’?

May 5, 2017
ICS Poster Session and Mexican Fiesta  
Last Day of Classes