Justin Wood Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Southern California, USA
Title: Using automated controlled rearing to explore the origins of the mind
Neuroscience Seminar Series:
Friday, June 22nd. 2018, 11:30 am, Salle des conférences (3rd Floor), Centre Universitaire des Saints-Pères, 45 rue des Saints-Pères, 75006 Paris
One of the great unsolved mysteries in science concerns the origins of the mind. While scientists have been interested in this topic for centuries, progress has been hampered by the lack of high-precision methods for studying newborn organisms. To overcome this barrier, my lab developed an automated controlled-rearing method for studying perceptual and cognitive development. Using automation, we can monitor newborn animals’ behavior continuously (24/7) within strictly controlled virtual environments. This approach allows us to study how mental abilities emerge in newborn animals, with an unprecedented degree of precision. In this talk, I will focus on the development of object perception. I will first describe studies showing that newborn chicks can build abstract object concepts rapidly, within the first days of life. I will then describe the experiential ingredients needed for the development of this ability. Specifically, newborn chicks need experience with natural visual environments, containing objects moving slowly and smoothly over time across patterned backgrounds. Without natural visual input, chicks develop abnormal or ‘incorrect’ object concepts. These results illuminate the role of experience in the development of object perception and provide high-precision benchmarks for testing computational models of newborn vision.