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May 19: Brain Bases for Spatial Awareness

Professor Douglas Nitz

The brain has the complex job of determining one's current location in the world, mapping out the available routes to multiple destinations, and writing all this information into memory. The rat is gifted in this respect, in a way that not all humans are. By examining the activity of brain neurons in rats performing navigational tasks, neuroscientists have uncovered a treasure trove of different mechanisms by which spatial information is “encoded” and how such encodings are compatible with memory, planning, and reasoning. This lecture will examine this rich set of findings and consider recent findings that may provide a neural basis for analogical reasoning.

Presenter: Douglas Nitz is Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. He received his PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, did postdoctoral work at the University of Arizona, and spent 10 years as a Fellow of the Neurosciences Institute, before joining UCSD as a research professor.

May 26: Young Cells in Old(er) Brains

(NOTE: this lecture will be given at 1:00 p.m. instead of 10:00 a.m. to accommodate Professor Rangel’s teaching schedule.)

Professor Lara Maria Rangel

The brain is capable of generating new neurons in adulthood through a process called adult neurogenesis. What are these young cells good for? Is it possible for these young cells to replace those we have lost? Adult neurogenesis is highly regulated by our daily activities, suggesting that their function is influenced by our experiences. Professor Rangel’s research suggests that adult-born neurons may play an important role in the formation of new memories.

Presenter: Lara Rangel is an Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. She earned a BS in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in 2006 and a PhD in Neurosciences from UCSD in 2012. Her postdoctoral work was conducted at Boston University and MIT.

June 2: Baby Brains: How Are They Formed? How Do They Make Us Who We Are?

Professor Gedeon Deák?

The last few decades have seen great progress in understanding how brains develop: from balls of cells to unimaginably intricate, well-organized nervous systems (billions of neurons sharing trillions of connections) that support every perception, thought, and behavior in our lives. Simultaneously, behavioral developmental researchers have had raging debates about origins of knowledge: Where does knowledge come from? Are children like “little sponges”? Are the first five years really so formative? This lecture will attempt to bridge these separate fields of developmental neurobiology and cognitive development with, first, a whirlwind tour of some astounding processes of early brain development and, second, an illustration of how this information should sharpen questions and answers about how infants learn, think, and communicate.

Instructor: Gedeon Deák is a Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. He received his BA from Vassar College and his PhD from the University of Minnesota. He is an American Psychological Society fellow and former National Academy of Education postdoctoral fellow.

Coordinator: Steve Clarey

Course Number: OSHR-70061   Credit: 0 units

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