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IM Seminars

    Tuesdays, 11 AM - 12.30, IMC, 1483,3.

August 6th: The Frith's
August 13th: Josh Skewes: Perceptual enhancements in autism: disentangling top-down and bottom-up mechanisms

August 20: No IM seminar, Mindlab seminar at Sandbjerg

August 27: Katrin Heimann: What can be done in the blink of an eye?
First observations regarding cognitive/cognitive-communicative functions of blinking
Blinking has firstly been described as those short, non-consciously elicited eye-closures which serve to lubricate and protect the eye from potential physical damage due to the intrusion of objects, light, and so forth. However, a number of findings hint towards other possible reasons of blinking.
On the one hand, blinking rate, in clinical research, has been reported to be reliably changed in certain disorder such as Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and depression (and therefore hypothesized to be connected to the dopaminergic system). On the other hand, a number of different studies have found specific task dependent differences in blink occurrence also in healthy subjects (possibly independent of the dopamine level). That is, blinking has been observed to be reduced when visual attention is required and increased during a) fatigue and b) cognitive processes not requiring perceptual attention (such as during mind-wandering/lexical search). Most interestingly, blinking recently has been reported to be sometimes time-locked to moments of attention rest/switch (in movie watching, conversations).
However, little has been done to look at possible cognitive/cognitive communicative functions of blinking that might explain and thereby connect these findings. This is especially surprising a) regarding the use of blinking rate as a tool for clinical diagnosis and b) the treatment of blinks as an artifact in a lot of neuroscientific/physiological measurements.
In my talk I will present first observations of a pilot experiment designed to further explore the precise circumstances of blink occurrence in communicative and non-communicative situations.

September 3: Panos Mitkidis, dry run of TEDx talk
September 10: John H. Shaver: Life History Theory and Variation in Fijian Ritual Performance
In this talk I employ life history theory to explain variation in contemporary ritual behavior in a remote Fijian village. Life history theory assumes that natural selection has designed phenotypes that optimize the tradeoffs of differential time and energy allocation over the life course. Ritual behavior returns significant social and material benefits, but achieving these benefits has associated costs. Costs include the performance of the behavior and the opportunity costs of not enacting other fitness beneficial behaviors. Since these other beneficial behaviors (e.g., investing in mates and children) vary reliably across the lifespan, ritual behavior will also vary according to a predictable life history schedule. Within socially stratified societies, however, the costs and benefits to ritual behavior vary across individuals of different social status, and therefore status will also influence decisions concerning whether or not to participate in ritual activity. Fiji is a compelling place to test these predictions because Fijian society is stratified with a social structure based on hereditarily ranked lineages and clans and it is a setting where individuals participate in both traditional and Christian ritual formats. Quasi-experimental data collected across 78 naturally occurring rituals, and several rounds of ethnographic interviews, reveal that male ritual participation is significantly influenced by life history status, and that high-ranking men attend church more frequently while low-ranking men attend kava ceremonies more frequently. Moreover, a man’s ascribed status significantly predicts his achieved role in the church, with higher ranking men more likely to be lay preachers, and low ranking men more likely to be members of the choir. In general, variation in Fijian ritual behavior reflects the differential gains that individuals can achieve given the constraints of their current life history condition.

September 17: No seminar, but see the Hands-On Introductions to Mixed Effect Models in R
September 24: Joanna Rączaszek-Leonardi: Tuning to interaction affordances in development
Infants seem to have multiple ways to synchronize with adults. Yet synchronization, by itself, is not enough for a dyadic action to become purposefully organized. How does the functional structure "sneak-into" interaction? Is a high-level 'theory of mind' a prerequisite? In our analyses of early mother-infant interactions we show that at least part of this structure may come from educating child's perception and attention through participation in culturally structured episodes.

October 1: Lene Arøe & Michael Bang Petersen: Birth Weight Influences Social Orientations under Current Stress

Abstract:

We suggest that one distal cue that natural selection has prepared our minds to use when making predictions about social environments is the intrauterin flow of nutrients from mother to the self as indexed by the birth weight of the self. Given the importance of the mother's social environment for the birth weight of the child, birth weight provides an indirect but hard-to-fake cue to the larger social environment in which the child will come to be situated in. Because negative social factors (i.e., lack of social support) predict low birth weight, we predict that low birth weight is utilized as a cue of harsher social environments and give rise to avoidant social strategies. We test this hypothesis in three studies. Consistent with our prediction - and controlling for potential confounds - we find that low birth weight increases social distrust and social avoidance.

October 8:  Johan MårtenssonRegimented language training: Changes to brain and behavior following intensive language learning
At the Swedish Armed Forces Language School, young recruits learn a new language at a very fast pace. By measuring brain structure before and after language training, we were given the opportunity to observe what happens to the brain when we learn a new language in a short period of time.

Recruits go from having no knowledge of a language such as Arabic, Russian or Dari to speaking it fluently in the space of 13 months. From morning to evening, weekdays and weekends, the recruits study at a pace unlike any traditional language course.

As a control group, we used medicine and cognitive science students at Umeå University – students who also study hard, but not language, nor at the same intensity. Both groups underwent MRI scans before and after a three-month period of intensive studies. While the brain structure of the control group remained unchanged, we found changes in specific brain areas of the language students. Results revealed increases in hippocampal volume and cortical thickness of the left middle frontal gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus. The right hippocampus and the left superior temporal gyrus, both key regions in language acquisition, increased relatively more in interpreters with higher language proficiency following training. Interpreters struggling to stay at the academy showed relatively higher increases in the middle frontal gyrus, a region that is known to be involved in processing difficult speech.

The results indicate that grey matter plasticity is not only possible during language acquisition, but the extent and region of plastic changes varies between individuals.
(further reading: http://sciencenordic.com/language-studies-trigger-brain-growth)

Also October 8 13-15: Special IMC Seminar Sammyh Khan
Social Identity, Collective Participation and Health: The Prayag Magh Mela
My talk will describe a longitudinal study that investigated the impact of participation in a mass gathering upon health in an Indian context – the Magh Mela at Allahabad. The Magh Mela is the largest religious festival in the world and has a history spanning centuries with millions of pilgrims participating each year. Specifically, the study aimed to examine if, and if so, why, participation in a mass gatherings would lead to improvements in health. First, using a matched sample of participants (n=417) and non-participants (n=127), it was found that pilgrim's health improved significantly after having participated in the Magh Mela. Second, it was found that the increase in health could be explained by cognitive and behavioural crowd processes derived from Social Identity Theory (SIT; Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher & Wetherell, 1985). The presentation will be concluded with findings from a smaller qualitative study that explored pilgrim's own attributions for their health changes as well a note on plans for future research in other parts of the world.


October 15: No IMC seminar, week 42
October 22: Dan Ariely
October 29: TBA

November 5:: TBA

November 12: Joe Carroll: "Three Scenarios for Literary Darwinism.

Abstract:


I envision three alternative scenarios for literary study: one in which literary Darwinism remains outside the mainstream of literary study; one in which literary Darwinism is incorporated as just another of many different “approaches” to literature; and a third in which the evolutionary human sciences fundamentally transform and subsume all literary study. I locate current practices in a historical trajectory going back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Traditional literary humanism governed literary study until the poststructuralist revolution in the 1980s. Poststructuralism has isolated literary study from the production of knowledge and has adopted instead an ideological rationale for the profession. Repetition, exhaustion, and superficial variation are already now chronic conditions. The literary Darwinists, seeking to integrate literary study with the evolutionary human sciences, occupy a marginal role. In the first scenario, all this would remain stable. In the second scenario, literary Darwinism would be part of a “pluralist” vision in which incomplete and incompatible interpretive practices join together in casebooks. In the third scenario, the poststructuralist literary establishment crumbles quietly from within, succumbing to intellectual dry rot, and literary Darwinism attains to full maturity by absorbing the most comprehensive ideas in the evolutionary human sciences and integrating them with ideas specific to literary study. A mature literary Darwinism would be part of a transformed curriculum in which the evolutionary human sciences fully integrate the social sciences, linking them with evolutionary biology, molecular biology, and cognitive and affective neuroscience. The humanities would be continuous, both in concepts and in methods, with the evolutionary human sciences.


November 19: TBA

November 26: TBA

December 3: TBA

December 10: Sebastian Wallot: High Noon

December 17: Rane Willerslev




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