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Recent Developments in Cognitive Science: From Learning and Aging to Music and Language

UC San Diego’s Cognitive Science department established the country’s first program for, and remains a leader in, the interdisciplinary study of the mind, linking research in neuroscience, psychology, computer science, philosophy, and linguistics. This series features leading UCSD professors discussing recent advances in this exciting and important field. How does your brain keep track of where you are and where you’re going? How do children learn language, and how do adults deal with language in all its manifestations: literal, metaphorical, profane?

April 7: Are You in Your Right Mind? Hemispheric Asymmetry and Language Ability

Professor Seana Coulson

Although the two sides of the human brain are remarkably similar, there are known differences in their functional capacity. This lecture will begin with a discussion of language deficits that occur with strokes affecting the left versus the right hemisphere. These findings have led to the suggestion that both hemispheres contribute to language understanding but in different ways. It will go on to describe work in the laboratory using EEG recordings from healthy adults to show the different capacity of the left and right hemispheres to understand puns versus one-line jokes.

Presenter: Seana Coulson is Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego and co-Director of the Joint Doctoral Program in Language and Communicative Disorders at UCSD and SDSU. She received her PhD in Cognitive Science from UCSD.

April 21: Language Learning: Beyond Brilliant Babies

Professor Sarah Creel

Years of studies on infants’ learning of language sounds and words suggest that young learners arrive at adult-like speech sound categories by 12 months of age. Yet other research suggests that children aged three to five years are far from adult-like in their knowledge of sound categories. This lecture will present a reconceptualization of language development that emphasizes gradual perceptual learning, which may buttress more rapid real-time processes in language comprehension in the moment. Professor Creel’s research suggests steady, incremental increases in children’s capacity to recognize words, voices, and accents.

Presenter: Sarah Creel is Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. She investigates how people form memory representations of sound patterns like speech and music, and how this changes between childhood and adulthood. Her research is funded by the National Science Foundation. She earned her PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester.

May 5: The Cognitive Science of Swearing

Professor Benjamin Bergen

Profanity is a nearly universal feature of human language, used to express our strongest emotional experiences and to evoke them in others. So it’s worth trying to understand. Where does it come from? What makes one word profane while another that describes the very same thing seems childish or technical? How does profanity change over time? And what does it reveal about the human brain and how our capacity for language evolved? This lecture introduces the largely secret cognitive science of swearing, from how children learn four-letter words, through aphasia and Tourette Syndrome.

Instructor: We are pleased to welcome Professor Bergen back to the lectern and thank him for coordinating this series with his colleagues in the Cognitive Science Department at UC San Diego.

Benjamin Bergen is Professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD, where he directs the Language and Cognition Laboratory. He received his PhD from UC Berkeley. Bergen is an active public scientist, appearing on NPR’s Morning Edition and other outlets. He is the author of Louder than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning. His latest book, What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, has been reviewed widely and forms the basis of today’s lecture.

Course Number: OSHR-70060   Credit: 0 units

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Dates Class Type Section ID Fee
04/07/2017 - 05/05/2017 In-class 123306 $0.00  

Day and Time: Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Location: Room 129, UCSD Extension Complex, 9600 N. Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla