In addition to the six informal research areas, the institute houses five research centers: the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design (L3D), the Center for Computational Language and Education Research (CLEAR), the Center for Research on Training (CRT), the Center for Determinants of Executive Function & Dysfunction (DEFD), and The Intermountain Neuroimaging Consortium (INC). In contrast to the interdisciplinary research areas, the research centers are formally acknowledged units within the university administrative structure.
Co-Directors: James Martin & Martha Palmer
The Center for Computational Language & EducAtion Research (CLEAR) is dedicated to advancing human language technology and applying it to personalized learning. Our specific approach to human language technology centers on the development of increasingly rich linguistic annotation schemes that can serve as training and evolution data for machine learning systems and produce increasingly accurate and sophisticated natural language processing components. These components in turn provide a foundation for systems that perform information extraction, question answering, machine translation, spoken language processing and dialog understanding and human-computer interaction using animated agents or customizable interfaces. These systems have led to a wide variety of applications including some for language acquisition skills, tutoring and therapy, tools for question answering and navigating the Web and for learning and presentation of science topics ranging from plate tectonics to acoustics.
Director: Professor Gerhard Fischer, Department of Computer Science
L3D is affiliated with the Department of Computer Science, as well as the Institute of Cognitive Science, and continues the work started by the Human-Computer Communications (HCC) research group founded in 1984. Since then, HCC has expanded its research concerns beyond graphical user interfaces to encompass shared understanding, situated cognition, explanation and learning support, domain-oriented design environments, and information retrieval and delivery.
L3D’s vision builds on and extends the HCC research directions by including learning, designing, collaborating, and communicating. This support comprises the development of conceptual frameworks and computational artifacts and the understanding of their social and organizational contexts. L3D conducts research, creates learning opportunities, and collaborates with industrial partners as well as with other academic units at CU, across Colorado, nationally, and internationally. To this aim, L3D’s activities support the following purposes:
Director: Alice Healy
The primary goal of training research in this center is to construct a theoretical and empirical framework that can account for and make accurate predictions about the effectiveness of different training methods over a large range of tasks, including military, industrial, vocational, and academic tasks. The ability to predict the outcomes of different training methods on particular tasks will, as a natural by-product, point to ways to optimize training outcomes. Many of the basic mechanisms of knowledge and skill acquisition are similar across a variety of perceptual, cognitive, and motor tasks. However, some specific skills have unique features that might demand special training techniques. The center focuses on an analysis of which findings, mechanisms, and principles broadly generalize across learning types and task requirements. This evaluation allows us to make specific predictions about the effectiveness of training and general recommendations to improve training that would apply to virtually any training program. The center also aims to identify the unique features of specific knowledge and skills, where they exist, and how best to train them. The center is working to develop taxonomies for both types of training and types of tasks that will span the range of training types, from classroom to simulator, and task types, from simple individual laboratory tasks to complex tasks involving team cognition. The center efforts include development of several working predictive models of training effects, making comparisons to assess their ability to account for and predict training outcomes.
In addition, the center provides a mechanism to interact with industry, government agencies, and educational institutions to produce guidelines relevant to their training needs. The center also provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students and for visitors from other universities and non-academic institutions (e.g., the military, federal civilian agencies, or corporations) to gain hands-on experience in experimental methodology, predictive modeling, and state-of-the-art principles of effective training.
Much of the recent research that has been conducted in the center is summarized in the volume Training cognition: Optimizing efficiency, durability and generalizability. This volume was published in 2012 by Psychology Press and was edited by Alice F. Healy and Lyle E. Bourne, Jr.
The center operates within both the Psychology Department of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS) of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado. Many participants in the center are members of either or both of these units, but some are not. The existence of the center encourages multidisciplinary collaboration among recognized experts in the field of training research. The presence of center members who are not already affiliated with Psychology and ICS broadens the resources available to students and faculty who are currently affiliated with those units.
DEFD is an NIMH Funded Interdisciplinary Behavioral Science Center. The center is designed to understand executive function at three levels—the computational, the psychological, and the neurobiological—and integrate them to provide a unified theoretical perspective. To do so, each of DEFD’s projects investigates a particular aspect of executive function at all three levels. One of the center’s projects focuses on the representations supporting executive control and its development during childhood while another examines the effect of emotion on executive function. Other projects investigate executive function by means of analyzing molecular genetic analyses in concert with computational modeling to begin to specify in more detail how the dopamine (DA) system regulates three separable but correlated executive subcomponents—prepotent response inhibition, updating working memory, and set shifting. Another project utilizes a fMRI/ERP approach to test how well a temporal cascade model of cognitive control can explain facets of executive function, such as task switching. Lastly, we have a project that explores how PFC representations are shaped by the interaction between experience and the unique biological mechanisms of the PFC and associated brain areas in the basal ganglia and dopaminergic system. Only by integrating and synthesizing ideas and findings across these different levels of analysis will the field arrive at a fully adequate understanding of executive function.
The INC is a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The INC brings together internationally recognized neuroscientists from the Rocky Mountain region who study complex psychological processes such as addiction, pain, emotion, attention, sleep, and learning and memory, as well as physicists and engineers who study and develop innovative MRI methods and analysis techniques. This unique research environment promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing among area scientists, and offers an unprecedented opportunity for other scientists in the region to enhance their existing research by making use of the INC’s expertise and cutting edge neuroimaging resources.