Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Research Professors & Research Associates positions at the BCBL

Research Professors & Research Associates positions at the BCBL- Basque Center on Cognition Brain and Language (San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain) www.bcbl.eu

The Basque Center on Cognition Brain and Language (San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain) offers  Research Professors & Research Associates positions in three main broad areas or research: 

(1)-Language, reading and developmental disorders: How language acquisition, comprehension, production, and reading take place in the human brain. Special attention will be paid to language disorders and the development of computerized tools for their early diagnosis and treatment.

(2)-Multilingualism and second language learning: The cognitive and brain mechanisms of language acquisition and processing in a second language, taking into consideration the age of acquisition, proficiency and usage. Special attention will be paid to multilingualism within the school system and to the development of new educational technologies for second language learning.

(3)- Neurodegeneration, brain damage and healthy aging: Language and Cognition: Early cognitive and brain markers related to language for neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer, Parkinson); neural plasticity and language functions through brain stimulation in the awake patient during surgical brain operations; developing of computerized diagnostic and training tools for aphasic patients and neurodegenerative diseases.

The Center promotes a rich research environment without substantial teaching obligations. It provides access to the most advanced behavioral and neuroimaging techniques, including 3 Tesla MRI, a whole-head MEG system, four ERP labs, a NIRS lab, a baby lab including an eyetracker, two eyetracking labs, and several well-equipped behavioral labs.  There are excellent technical support staff and research personnel (PhD and postdoctoral students). 

We are looking for cognitive neuroscientists or experimental psychologists with a background in psycholinguistics and/or neighboring cognitive neuroscience areas, computational modelers, and physicists and/or engineers with fMRI/MEG expertise. 

These  permanent positions are for researchers willing to develop a long-term scientific career in the Basque Country. This call is open both to stablished researchers as Research Associates, with 8 to 12 years of postdoctoral experience; and senior leading researchers as Research Professors, with longer research experience. The applicants must have their PhD completed before January 2012.

Applications from women researchers are specially welcome. 

An acceptance letter Scientific Director of the host institution is mandatory.

To submit your application please follow this  link  https://calls.ikerbasque.net/


Deadline: September 17, 2020, at 13:00, CET

For further information please contact the Director of BCBL, Manuel Carreiras (info@bcbl.eu)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Research assistant / Lab manager position available in the O-Lab at Duke University

We are looking for a highly motivated recent or soon-to-be graduate to join the O-Lab, led by Prof. Tobias Overath, in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University. Work in our lab investigates how sounds, from simple sinusoids to complex speech signals, are analyzed in the human brain, using a combination of behavioral (psychoacoustics) and neuroimaging methods (fMRI, EEG, ECoG) to track the underlying neural processes. Current projects investigate the transformation from acoustic to linguistic analysis of temporal speech structure, online measures of statistical learning, and optimization of cochlear implant coding strategies. 

Applicants should have received an undergraduate degree in psychology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, or a related field by summer 2020. A strong interest in how the brain processes sound is a plus, as is excellent knowledge of at least one programing language (preferably Matlab). Familiarity with fMRI, EEG, and/or a related experimental technique is a plus.
The main emphasis of the position will be on being involved with, and taking the lead on, research projects, thereby gaining valuable research experience for future applications to graduate school. Bureaucratic aspects of the position (such as scheduling and reimbursement of participants, lab equipment purchases, IRB protocols, etc.) are projected to be comparatively limited.

Duke University provides a vibrant, highly connected scientific environment, with many relevant departments and interdisciplinary initiatives (e.g. Departments of NeurobiologyBiomedical EngineeringElectrical and Computer EngineeringCenter for Cognitive NeuroscienceDuke Institute for Brain SciencesBrain Imaging and Analysis Center). In addition, the Research Triangle area (Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh) boasts a wealth of research initiatives.

Prospective start date is August or September, 2020. Applications will be reviewed until the position is filled. Candidates from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds are expressly encouraged to apply. Interested candidates should send a cover letter, CV, and a list of 3 potential references, to Tobias Overath via email: t.overath@duke.edu

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Job opportunities at the University of Bristol

The School of Psychological Science at the University of Bristol is seeking to appoint a Senior Lecturer with a track record of high-quality research in the areas of neuropsychology/neuroscience of human cognition, emotion and behaviour. The successful applicant will join a collegiate, supportive department with a vibrant research environment and a passion for excellence in research and teaching. 
Funding for this opportunity follows from the creation of a new MSci programme in Psychology and Neuroscience that will be jointly taught with the School of Physiology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience.  It is available on a full-time basis with the new MSci starting in September 2020.  
The successful applicant will have a strong, well-developed research profile beyond doctoral level, with an established record of high-quality publishing commensurate with the applicant’s career stage.  You will be able to demonstrate your ability to contribute effectively to the management and delivery of the new MSci programme and existing teaching, including supervising student dissertations and running tutorials. 
The successful candidate will assume responsibility for an appropriate share of administration and will be expected to interact effectively with other academic colleagues within and across subject areas and with external partners. 
The School holds a departmental Bronze Athena SWAN Award. We are committed to the equality of opportunities and to selection on merit. The School and University have a wide range of policies aimed at ensuring fair and effective recruitment and supporting staff in work. 
For further information about the role please contact the Head of School, Professor Chris Jarrold  (Head-psych@bristol.ac.uk), or the School Education Director, Dr Chris Kent (C.Kent@Bristol.ac.uk). 
Interviews will be held on Tuesday 31st March 2020. 
We welcome applications from all members of our community and are particularly encouraging those from diverse groups, such as members of the LGBT+ and BAME communities, to join us.
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The University of Bristol is seeking to appoint an outstanding academic leader as the Head of the School of Psychological Science.
This is an exciting opportunity for someone with inspirational leadership skills to lead and manage the academic business of the School in relation to both strategy and operations, fostering its academic strengths, and promoting research and teaching at the forefront of Psychology.
Outstanding leadership and academic credentials, an open and inclusive approach, and a track record of excellent partnership working are key requirements of the role.
Applications should be made online at Bristol.ac.uk/jobs (job number ACAD104404).
For more information or an informal discussion please contact Professor Jeremy Tavaré, Dean of Life Sciences, J.tavare@bristol.ac.uk.
The closing date for applications is 11.59pm on 15 March 2020.  The interview process will take place over two days on 25/26 March 2020.
We welcome applications from all members of our community and are particularly encouraging those from diverse groups, such as members of the LGBT+ and BAME communities, to join us.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Word comprehension in people with left temporal lobe damage

[This is a snippet from a book I'm (slowly) working on for MIT Press. The comprehension task we used here was adapted from Baker et al. 1981 and looked like this, where the auditory presented word to be comprehended was "bear" or on other trials "pear":


]


With the help of my collaborator and former student Corianne Rogalsky, I probed our chronic stroke dataset, identifying 24 cases of left unilateral temporal lobe damage. The image below shows a lesion overlap map with warmer colors indicating more overlap across patients. 





The average score on the bear-pear-moose-grapes test was 97.9% correct; 16 people had a perfect score, 6 got 95%, and the 2 lowest scorers were at 90% accuracy. Not bad given the sustained damage to Wernicke’s area.




Wednesday, January 15, 2020

RESEARCH FELLOW POSITION at the BCBL- Basque Center on Cognition Brain and Language (San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain)

RESEARCH FELLOW POSITION at the BCBL- Basque Center on Cognition Brain and Language (San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain) www.bcbl.eu (Center of excellence Severo Ochoa)

The Basque Center on Cognition Brain and Language (San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain) offers research fellow positions in three main broad areas or research: 

(1)-Language, reading and developmental disorders: How language acquisition, comprehension, production, and reading take place in the human brain. Special attention will be paid to language disorders and the development of computerized tools for their early diagnosis and treatment.

(2)-Multilingualism and second language learning: The cognitive and brain mechanisms of language acquisition and processing in a second language, taking into consideration the age of acquisition, proficiency and usage. Special attention will be paid to multilingualism within the school system and to the development of new educational technologies for second language learning.

(3)- Neurodegeneration, brain damage and healthy aging: Language and Cognition: Early cognitive and brain markers related to language for neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer, Parkinson); neural plasticity and language functions through brain stimulation in the awake patient during surgical brain operations; developing of computerized diagnostic and training tools for aphasic patients and neurodegenerative diseases.

The Center promotes a rich research environment without substantial teaching obligations. It provides access to the most advanced behavioral and neuroimaging techniques, including 3 Tesla MRI, a whole-head MEG system, four ERP labs, a NIRS lab, a baby lab including an eyetracker, two eyetracking labs, and several well-equipped behavioral labs.  There are excellent technical support staff and research personnel (PhD and postdoctoral students). 

We are looking for cognitive neuroscientists or experimental psychologists with a background in psycholinguistics and/or neighboring cognitive neuroscience areas, computational modelers, and physicists and/or engineers with fMRI/MEG expertise. 

These five year Fellowships are directed to promising young researchers; they are intended to offer a track towards a PI role and independent research. The selected Fellows should be able to acquire the necessary skills for a research leader role. Ikerbasque is committed to offer a long-term career to the research community: Fellows in their 5th year can be assessed for a permanent position.

The applicants must have their PhD completed between 1/1/2009 and 31/12/2017.

Applications from women are especially welcomed. The eligibility period will be extended under special circumstances such as maternity.

Support letter from the host group is mandatory.

To submit your application please follow this link: https://calls.ikerbasque.net/

Deadline: 24th March 2020

For further information about the fellowships, please contact the Director of BCBL, Manuel Carreiras (info@bcbl.eu)

Monday, December 23, 2019

What is cognition? The view from the early cognitive psychologists

[The following is an excerpt from Chapter 6 (The Embodied Mind) of The Myth of Mirror Neurons, which describes how early cognitive psychologists viewed their break from behaviorism as resting on the idea of information processing. The term "cognition" was later applied to this movement and ended up leading to some confusion because of the colloquial definition of cognition as applying to higher-level mental abilities...]
Computation and the information processing approach
The question then became, how does the brain process information?  The digital computer was being developed around the same time and served as a convenient heuristic to think about how the brain might achieve such a feat.  The basic idea is that there is information on the one hand and a set of processing routines (mental apps or computational algorithms) on the other.  The information serves as input to the processing routines, which then transform it according to the set of computations defined in the program (e.g., if x, then y) and the processing routines output the results of the transformations.  The output can then be stored as new information, serve as input to other programs, and control devices like a display or printer.  Inputs to a computer -- key presses, mouse jiggles and pokes, image captures -- don’t directly control what’s displayed on the monitor or what the printer prints; rather, those inputs are processed by various apps to convert them into words and images, solve math problems, or play solitaire.  It is the output of the apps that directly control what is displayed or printed.  
The point of the computer analogy, or more accurately the computer program analogy, is that the mind/brain works the same way: the inputs to the brain – photons hitting the retina, air pressure fluctuations impinging on the ear drum, and so on – don’t control human behavior directly; rather, those inputs are processed by various neural apps to convert them to words and images, solve math problems, or play solitaire  
Some early cognitive models looked very much like computer programs.  In fact, some were computer programs.  One of the most famous programs, developed in the 1950s by Allen Newell, J.C. Shaw, and Herbert Simon, was called the Logic Theorist.  The Logic Theorist, or LT as it was nicknamed, was written to prove theorems using symbolic logic, similar in spirit to what a high schooler encounters in geometry class.  The program was given a database of axioms (e.g., symbolic logic statements like “p or q implies q or p”) and a set of processing rules for using the axioms to generate proofs, rules such as substitution or replacement.  LT was then presented with a series of new logic expressions and instructed to discover the proof for each using the “given” axioms and the rules.  If it proved a theorem, it could store that proof along with the given axioms for use in subsequent proofs.  
LT performed quite respectably, proving 73% of the theorems it was given. Writing a program that could pass a high school geometry class was an impressive accomplishment for the infant field of computer science, but it had far more significance for the information processing approach to understanding human behavior. LT showed that complex, human-like behavior could be approximated quite well with a purpose-built information processing system.  And this is how Newell et al. presented the LT program, as a straight-up theory of human problem solving. To bolster their argument, the team presented evidence that LT’s problem solving “behavior” exhibited features characteristic of humans solving similar problems, such as its ability to learn, its demonstration of a kind of “insight” (trying at first to solve a problem with trial and error and then, once hitting upon the solution, using the same approach to solve similar problems), and its ability to break a problem down into sub-problems.  
Now, Newell and company were careful to point out that their theory does not imply that humans are digital computers, only that humans appear to be running a program similar to LT.  
We wish to emphasize that we are not using the computer as a crude analogy to human behavior—we are not comparing computer structures with brains, nor electrical relays with synapses. Our position is that the appropriate way to describe a piece of problem-solving behavior is in terms of a program: a specification of what the organism will do under varying environmental circumstances in terms of certain elementary information processes it is capable of performing. This assertion has nothing to do—directly—with computers. Such programs could be written (now that we have discovered how to do it) if computers had never existed.  A program is no more, and no less, an analogy to the behavior of an organism than is a differential equation to the behavior of the electrical circuit it describes. Digital computers come into the picture only because they can, by appropriate programming, be induced to execute the same sequences of information processes that humans execute when they are solving problems. Hence, as we shall see, these programs describe both human and machine problem solving at the level of information processes.
It was a one-two punch for behaviorism.  Chomsky and others had pointed out the inadequacy of simple associationist explanations of human behavior and symbol-manipulating computer programs provided a viable and directly observable account of how the brain processes information.  Psychology whole-heartedly embraced the information processing approach.
The movement was later termed the cognitive revolution, an unfortunate term in my view because it implies that the revolution holds only for the everyday definition of “cognitive,”  higher-order functions like language, memory, problem solving, and the like. It is true that the majority of the earliest work in the field focused on these complex human behaviors, but the real point of the revolution was that everything about human behavior -- perception, motor control, all of psychology -- is a result of information processing.  Psychologist Ulric Neisser, who literally named the field and wrote the book on it with his 1967 text, Cognitive Psychology, defined the domain of cognition this way:
“Cognition” refers to all the processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used.  … Such terms as sensation, perception, imagery, retention, recall, problem-solving, and thinking, among many others, refer to hypothetical stages or aspects of cognition.
Neisser’s table of contents underlined his view that cognition was not limited to higher-order functions.  His volume is organized into four parts.  Part I is simply the introductory chapter.  Part II is called “Visual Cognition” and contains five chapters.  Part III is “Auditory Cognition” with four chapters. Finally, Part IV deals with “The Higher Mental Processes” and contains a single chapter, which Neisser refers to as “essentially an epilogue” with a discussion that is “quite tentative”. He continues,
Nevertheless, the reader of a book called Cognitive Psychology has a right to expect some discussion of thinking, concept-formation, remembering, problem-solving, and the like…. If they take up only a tenth of these pages, it is because I believe there is still relatively little to say about them…. 
Most scientists today working on perception or motor control, even at fairly low levels, would count their work as squarely within the information processing model of the mind/brain and therefore within Neisser’s definition of cognition.  Consider this paper title, which appeared recently in a top-tier neuroscience journal: Eye Smarter than Scientists Believed: Neural Computations in Circuits of the Retina.  If anything in the brain is a passive recording device (like a camera) or a simple filter (like polarized sunglasses) it’s the retina, or so we thought. Here’s how the authors put it:
Whereas the conventional wisdom treats the eye as a simple prefilter for visual images, it now appears that the retina solves a diverse set of specific tasks and provides the results explicitly to downstream brain areas.
Solves a diverse set of specific tasks and provides the results… sounds like a purpose-built bit of programing—in the retina!  We observe similar complexity in the control of simple movements, such as tracking an object with the eyes, an ability that is thought to involve a cerebral cortex-cerebellar network including more than a half dozen computational nodes that generate predictions, detect errors, calculate correction signals, and learn. It is not much of an overstatement to say that there is universal agreement among perceptual and motor scientists in neuroscience and psychology that perception and action are complex systems that actively transform sensory information and dynamically control action. As Neisser wrote in 1967, “Information is what is transformed, and the structured pattern of its transformations is what we want to understand.” The information processing model of the mind -- cognitive psychology as defined eloquently by Ulric Neisser -- now dominates the study of the mind/brain from computation in the retina to motor control to complex problem solving.
[The rest of the chapter considers the contribution of embodied cognition in this context.]