Research Seminars in Link

Link 3 Seminar Space

CogNovo is pleased to continue to host many of the external seminars by research groups within the institute at the workshop space in Link 3. The space will host weekly and monthly seminars by Transtechnology, School of Psychology, CRNS and CogNovo amongst others. You can also browse last years events.

Date and time (location) Speaker and talk title Talk series
15/9/2016; 1pm (PSQ Stonehouse) Serge Thill – (Not) just more robots: cars as artificial cognitive systems. CRNS Seminars
21/09/2016; 1pm Hannah Drayson, Michael Punt – Introduction. Hogarth’s Dog, Devices, Narrative and Illusion. TransTechnology
05/10/2016; 4pm Bahar Koymen – Putting heads together: Children's reasoning with others Psychology Research Seminar
11/10/2016; 12.30pm Joseph J. Schlesinger, MD: Psychoacoustics in the hospital – Why all clinicians should study music CogNovo Research Seminar
12/10/2016; 4pm Graham Turpin – Books on prescription, self-help and trauma: a cautionary tale Psychology Research Seminar
19/10/2016; 1pm Abigail Jackson, Eugenia Stamboliev – Human Devices: Instrumentation of physicality in performance. TransTechnology
19/10/2016; 4pm William Simpson – What causes the other-race effect? Evidence from classification images Psychology Research Seminar
26/10/2016; 4pm Bob French – Explaining how on earth young children are so good at Concentration Psychology Research Seminar
28/10/2016; 2pm Carlos Cifuentes – Human-Robot Interaction Strategies for Assistance and Rehabilitation CRNS Seminars
09/11/2016; 4pm Sobanawartiny Wijeakumar – 'Shining light' on visual working memory Psychology Research Seminar
16/11/2016; 1pm Claudia Pilsl – Photographic Devices: The revenge of Veronica. TransTechnology
16/11/2016; 4pm Jonathan Rolison – Risk-taking differences across adulthood: A question of age, domain, and self-perceptions. Psychology Research Seminar
23/11/2016; 4pm Felicity Bishop – Harnessing Placebo Effects in Routine Primary Care: GPs' and Patients' Perspectives Psychology Research Seminar
30/11/2016; 4pm Laurence White – The origins of speech anti-rhythm. Psychology Research Seminar
2/12/2016; 2pm Padraig Gleeson – OpenWorm, building the world's first virtual organism CRNS Seminars
07/12/2016; 4pm Ann Dowker – Mathematics Anxiety in Children and Adults Psychology Research Seminar
14/12/2016; 1pm Guy Edmonds, Agatha Haines – Deviating Devices: The productive misuse of technology. TransTechnology
14/12/2016; 4pm Iris Engelhard – How does EMDR work? A dual-task approach to degrading traumatic memories Psychology Research Seminar
16/12/2016; 2pm Ian Phillips – Taken by the Horns CRNS Seminars
18/01/2017; 1pm Narrative: Context and conflict. TransTechnology
18/01/2017; 4pm Lorraine Whitmarsh – Behaviour change or lifestyle change? Evidence and prospects for behavioural 'spillover' Psychology Research Seminar
20/01/2017; 2pm Hatice Gunes – Affective and Social Signal Processing for HRI CRNS Seminars
25/01/2017; 4pm Andy Wills – Introduction to catlearn and formal modelling (for novices). Psychology Research Seminar
27/01/2017; 2pm Miguel González-Fierro – Leveraging data driven research through Microsoft Azure CRNS Seminars
01/02/2017; 4pm Sylvia Pan – What is Virtual Reality and How Does it Work for Social Psychologists? Psychology Research Seminar
08/02/2017; 1pm (Rolle 214) Jochen Triesch – Self-calibrating perception through Active Efficient Coding CRNS Seminars
08/02/2017; 4pm Debbie Mills – Interactions between language experience, emotion, and executive function: ERP studies of bilingual adults Psychology Research Seminar
10/02/2017; 2pm Marcus Kaiser – The Human Connectome: Linking Brain Network Features to Healthy and Pathological Information Processing CRNS Seminars
cancelled: 15/02/2017; 4pm cancelled: Howard Bowman – Breakthrough Percepts - (Sub)liminal Salience Search and EEG Deception Detection on the Fringe of Awareness Psychology Research Seminar
17/02/2017; 2pm Shimon Whiteson – Inverse Reinforcement Learning for Telepresence Robots CRNS Seminars
22/02/2017; 4pm Daryl O'Connor – Karoshi: Effects of Stress on Health and Wellbeing Psychology Research Seminar
01/03/2017; 4pm Paul Artes – Super-Vision - designing new vision tests with hyperacuity stimuli: rewards and challenges. Psychology Research Seminar
15/03/2017; 1pm Becalelis Brodskis – Narrative: When time stood still. TransTechnology
15/03/2017; 4pm Lisa Leaver – Cognition in grey squirrels: what we know and why it matters Psychology Research Seminar
22/03/2017; 4pm Claire Braboszcz – Neuroscience of mental imagery Psychology Research Seminar
29/03/2017; 4pm Phil McAleer – First impressions of speaker personality from voices Psychology Research Seminar
31/03/2017; 2pm Hassan Ugail – Applied Visual Computing: Challenges and Opportunities CRNS Seminars
07/04/2017; 2pm Enrico Grosso – Face analysis: from similarity to identity CRNS Seminars
19/04/2017; 1pm Amani Alsaad – Narrative: What Remains Unsaid TransTechnology
26/04/2017; 4pm Chris Harris – Decisions, decisions, decisions Psychology Research Seminar
28/04/2017; 2pm Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova – Individual motor signatures and socio-motor biomarkers in schizophrenia CRNS Seminars
03/05/2017; 4pm Henry Otgaar – Remembering and believing in the legal context Psychology Research Seminar
05/05/2017; 2pm Tetsuya Ogata – Neuro-Robotics - Deep Learning and Cognitive Developmental Robotics CRNS Seminars
10/05/2017; 4pm Keith Jensen – The Heart of Human Sociality Psychology Research Seminar
17/05/2017; 1pm Rupert Allan and James Sweeting – Reality: Illusions of Narrative, Narratives of Illusion TransTechnology
26/05/2017; 2pm Beatrice Ligorio – Human interaction in virtual environments: learning and professional experiences CRNS Seminars
23/06/2017; 2pm Agnieszka Wykowska – Social cognition in human-robot interaction CRNS Seminars


(Not) just more robots: cars as artificial cognitive systems.

Serge Thill (Skovde University, Sweden)

Present-day and near future cars have become increasingly smart, adaptive, and autonomous in their decision making. We are now at a point where such vehicles are no longer a mere tool for travelling from A to B but rather can arguably be seen as cognitive agents that we interact and collaborate with in navigation tasks. In this talk, I will discuss how this opens up interesting research avenues for those interested in human-machine interaction and artificial cognitive systems.

Tropes of Affect: Devices, Narrative and Illusion – Introduction. Hogarth’s Dog, Devices, Narrative and Illusion.

Hannah Drayson, Michael Punt

In 2015/16 we examined a number of objects and technological devices as archaeological traces of human cognitive processes, as both an intentional feature and a component of post hoc interpretation. In the following series we will look at an aspect of the mediation of affect through three key filters: illusion, devices and narrative.

The notion of affect in the arts has been the topic of much theoretical, critical and practical response to art, design and architecture, and by extension to other human artefacts involving creativity including technology and media form. However, the understanding of affect often involves a contradiction; the manifestation of affect is regarded by many as both discontinuous with its expression and, consequently, only partially accessible to others. The issue here is one of an apparent failure to connect the subjectivity of expression with that of the receiver.

The imperative to bridge the gap between the experience of affect and its expression is arguably one of the key drivers of invention and creativity. One of the tactics in this on-going endeavour to articulate affect has been to use figures of speech or visual devices (such as metaphor, irony, and allegory, among others) for artistic effect. In these, the gap between the intended concept and the shared understanding is regarded as a rhetorical device that acknowledges, and even amplifies, the inevitable partiality of any representation.

In this seminar series we will identify established tropes of affect in the creative disciplines shared by researchers based in Transtechnology Research. One possible outcome is that we may be able to extend the argument of the previous series and contribute to Latour’s call for a more nuanced and valuable concept of reality for the 21st century – especially in the arts, sciences and humanities. Exploring the extent to which the rhetorical constraints of instrumentation, narrative, and illusion have extended the concept of human affect into a collaborative relationship with a shared hypothesis of the real.

Putting heads together: Children's reasoning with others

Bahar Koymen (Manchester University)

Reasoning is classically viewed as an individual skill enabling a person to reach conclusions based on evidence. More recent accounts, however, have highlighted that reasoning - in the more restricted sense of explicating reasons for actions or conclusions - is a fundamentally social skill enabling two or more people to produce and evaluate one another's arguments in order to reach joint decisions (Mercier & Sperber, 2011; Tomasello, 2014). Therefore, in making joint decisions with a partner, children must evaluate the evidence behind their respective claims and so the rationality of their respective proposals. In this talk I will present series of studies in which 3-, 5-, and 7-year-old children produced and evaluated reasons with their peer partners to reach joint decisions. The findings overall suggest that children as young as 3-year-olds are able to reason with others. Children get better at reasoning in late preschool ages and eventually become very 'strategic' reasoners at school ages. Overall, these results support the view of children's joint reasoning as a fundamentally cooperative enterprise aimed at making jointly rational decisions.

Books on prescription, self-help and trauma: a cautionary tale

Graham Turpin (University of Sheffield)

Bibliotherapy and self-help are recognized features of many UK mental health services. Since the pioneering work of Neil Frude, Books on Prescription (BOP) Schemes have arisen in many NHS services through partnerships with public libraries. At the same time, the importance of 'Stepped Care Models' of service delivery has been stressed, whereby Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners offer low intensity psychological interventions such as bibliotherapy and self-help.
A recent national development by a leading charity involving public libraries, the Reading Agency, has drawn these two initiatives together. The progress made in rolling out nationally the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme covering common mental health conditions, dementia, young people's mental health and long-term physical conditions will be briefly reviewed.
It cannot be assumed, however, that every self-help intervention is effective in moderating symptoms and psychological problems. Research on providing self-help information to people who have recently attended hospital Accident and Emergency departments will be presented. Although attendees generally value being given relevant information, no evidence of the efficacy of information provision on moderating symptoms of PTSD was obtained in three independent RCTs. The implications of these studies for self-help provision are discussed.

Human Devices: Instrumentation of physicality in performance.

Eugenia Stamboliev and Abigail Jackson

Through traditional live performance the audience is offered an experience that promotes affective relationships, reliant on the ability to mirror the actions of the human performer. We will begin by introducing this concept through theories of mimicry through childhood development, giving insight into the human to human relationships. The main body of the seminar will introduce our key text– The Digital Uncanny and Ghost Effect (Ravetto-Biagoli, 2016), which we use to structure our seminar and give focus to topics addressing the increased placement of technologies in live.

Digital technologies have provoked a litany of uncertainties about the; "(…) status of the human: where does embodiment take place if it inhabits so many screening devices that present it as virtual and untimely; how have information and communication technologies blurred the line between the human and the technologies that mediate what it means to be human; and what is the role of affect when emotions can be predicted, simulated and controlled? The digital doubles and redoubles these uncertainties already present in earlier technologies, asking us to examine how screening, tracking and data-capturing technologies have reconfigured our various experiences (social engagement, political activism, knowledge production, tuning in, participation, and so on), and also our understanding of subjectivity, embodiment and experience." (Ravetto-Biagoli, 2016: 2)

We will provide examples, and extensions, to the ideas presented in the paper whilst giving attention to human-to-technology relationships, as apposed to human-to-human, when considering the role of empathy. This seminar aims to concluding by discussing the suggestion that technology, and the uncanny, have become the master trope, and subsequently raise questions about the use technology in the world of performance.

Suggested reading: The Digital Uncanny and Ghost Effect (Ravetto-Biagoli, 2016)

Explaining how on earth young children are so good at Concentration

Bob French (Universite de Bourgogne)

Games involving cognitive skills of any kind have at least one thing in common: an adult can without the slightest effort beat a five-year-old child at them. With one exception: Concentration. The game works like this. A deck of cards consisting of pairs of various images, for example, pairs of images of various Pokemon characters: two Pikachu cards, two Charizard cards, two Gyarados cards, etc., is randomly dealt out, face down, on the table. Each of the two players takes turns turning over two cards. If they match, they keep that pair of cards and play again. If the two cards turned over do not match, they are turned face down again in their original locations and the other player plays. The game continues until there are no more cards on the table. The winner is the person with the most cards.
Clearly this game requires two different memory skills: image-recollection and location-recollection. Along with other researchers, we have shown that adults are very significantly better at both of these memory skills than young children. And yet, children perform as well, and often better, than adults at this game, one that requires both image- and location-recognition! How on earth is this possible? I present a simple connectionist model that provides an insight for a possible solution to this paradox. The model suggests that no separate mechanisms are required for children to achieve their astonishingly good performance on this task. It also suggests a way for you to not be humiliated by being thrashed by your five-year-old child at this game...

Human-Robot Interaction Strategies for Assistance and Rehabilitation

Carlos Cifuentes (Colombian School of Engineering Julio Garavito, Colombia)

This talk will present and discuss requirements and proposed solutions for robots that support users during physical rehabilitation. I will discuss the design of interfaces for collaborative smart walkers and exoskeletons, and also some applications in the field of socially assistive robots that we are exploring at this time in collaboration with the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems.

'Shining light' on visual working memory

Sobanawartiny Wijeakumar (University of East Anglia)

Visual working memory (VWM) plays a key role in visual cognition, comparing percepts and identifying changes in the world as they occur. Previously, functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) has identified activation in frontal, parietal and temporal areas involved in VWM processing. There are, however, various issues with trying to use fMRI to investigate such brain functions in infancy and childhood and even in late adulthood. Instead, one can rely on functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to investigate hemodynamic changes in the cerebral cortex in both typical and atypical populations. Here, we will show a novel image reconstruction approach to move from conventional channel-based to voxel-based fNIRS activation, similar to what is obtained from fMRI analyses. I will validate this approach by comparing voxel-wise fNIRS results to fNIRS results from a VWM task in young adults. I will also present some evidence of using this approach to investigate VWM changes in the brain across the human life span.

Photographic Devices: The Revenge of Veronica

Claudia Pilsl (Transtechnology Research)

In this seminar Claudia Pilsl will address the photographic medium as a potentially affective device. In particular, she will try to engage with what happens during the process of working with photography and the photographic image when shared online.
For this Claudia will try to engage with situations where she tend to encounter her own 'affective response' within the working process in her practice research. She will focus specifically on some dimensional photographic collages that she made during summer 2016. In these pieces, she has extensively worked with images that she 'mined' from the internet using the Google search engine. This process raised questions about how affect might relate to why we photograph, to how we decide what to capture and to why we want to share these images with a potentially worldwide audience. In this seminar she is likely to only touch upon some aspects of this complex entanglement.
Bev Skeggs’s (2012) text 'Feeling Class: Affect and Culture in the Making of Class Relations' will be a starting point to understand better how feelings in relation to taste can act as social markers and how what we do, for instance sharing a photograph online, can reinforce class distinctions. Next to this text and her own observations, Claudia will also draw on various aspects raised through other theories on affect (Highmore and Massumi in particular). She will use these to help her open up a discourse on photography and its potential as an affective device.

Risk taking differences across adulthood

Jonathan Rolison (University of Essex)

Across adulthood, people face risky decisions in various life domains (e.g., health, recreation, finance, social relations). I will present data showing that with age people are more cautious in their risky decision making in various domains of life. Age differences in risk taking may result partly from stronger decision updating tendencies in older age in situations that involve risk. I will present findings from studies supporting this account. However, risk may not change in the same way across adulthood in all domains. I will also present data showing that older adults may be less sensitivity to domain-specificity in risk than others and that older adults may overestimate risk in their environment.

Harnessing Placebo Effects in Routine Primary Care: GPs' and Patients' Perspectives

Felicity Bishop (Southampton University)

Placebos are an essential tool in randomised clinical trials, where they are used to control for bias and contextual healing effects. More controversially, researchers are developing ways of harnessing placebo effects for patient benefit in routine medical practice. In this seminar, I will describe a programme of work investigating professional and lay attitudes to clinical applications of placebo effects. Our web-based survey of 783 UK GPs showed that 97% of GPs have used placebos in clinical practice, and that so-called 'pure' placebos (e.g. sugar pills) are used rarely but 'impure' placebos (e.g. homeopathy) are used frequently. Qualitative analysis of GPs' comments revealed that they perceived a broad array of perceived harms and benefits of placebo-prescribing, reflecting fundamental bioethical principles at the level of the individual, the doctor-patient relationship, the NHS, and society. While some GPs were adamant that there was no place for placebos in clinical practice, others saw placebo effects as ubiquitous and potentially beneficial in primary care. Our focus group and survey research with patients demonstrates similarly strongly-held and diverse views about harnessing placebo effects in routine primary care. If placebo effects are to be better harnessed to benefit patients, then patients and GPs would benefit from educational interventions to dispel myths, challenge misconceptions, and increase knowledge. I will finish by describing our current work to develop such interventions.

The origins of speech anti-rhythm

Laurence White (Plymouth University)

A key theme of recent neuroscientific studies of language processing is the entrainment of listeners' cortical oscillations – in particular, theta waves – to input speech. Most of this work is predicated on an assumption that the speech signal is essentially rhythmical, like music. In everyday speech styles, however, variation in timing is a key component in information transmission, giving rise to a strong tendency to "anti-rhythm". Presenting results from studies of language discrimination and artificial language learning, I discuss the importance of prediction for listeners, and ask how predictive mechanisms can function in the face of speech's anti-rhythmic tendency.

OpenWorm, building the world's first virtual organism

Padraig Gleeson (University College London)

The nematode C. elegans is one of the most studied model organisms in biology and the only one to have its full connectome mapped. OpenWorm is a project dedicated to recreating the C. elegans nematode as a virtual organism, cell by cell, in a computer. The project takes an Open Science approach to development, relying on volunteer contributions and making all code, data and documentation publicly available at the time of production. OpenWorm has two long term goals. The first is to functionally reproduce the behaviour of the wild-type C. elegans in a variety of environmental contexts, to the extent that the simulated behaviour is statistically indistinguishable from recordings of real worms under analogous environmental conditions. OpenWorm's second goal is for the simulation to be a faithful biological model for C. elegans. The achievement of these ambitious goals will hopefully make OpenWorm a valuable software tool in C. elegans labs worldwide.

Mathematics Anxiety in Children and Adults

Ann Dowker (University of Oxford)

Many people suffer from severe anxiety about mathematics, which can interfere with their educational and career options. It can occur even in young children, but seems to increase during the later primary school years, and to be particularly common in secondary pupils and adults. Mathematics anxiety is negatively correlated with performance, but there is still controversy about whether it is anxiety that comes first and interferes with performance or experiences of failure that come first and lead to anxiety. There is undoubtedly a vicious circle between the two, once significant anxiety develops. This talk will discuss studies of correlates of mathematics anxiety in both children and adults. I will conclude with some discussion of interventions that have been proposed for mathematics anxiety.

Deviating Devices: the productive misuse of technology

Agi Haines and Guy Edmonds (CogNovo)

This seminar aims to open a discussion regarding the misuse and reinterpretation of technologies.
During the process of exploration whilst making, certain methods may arise that circumvent the implicit nature, intent or function of a piece of technology. Overriding an agenda woven into the fabric of the technology may offer space for the artist to reclaim some control over the interpretation of its use. This playful, creative and imaginative process may not only contribute to our comprehension of how current devices are understood and interacted with but also transform our understanding of historic technologies and aid representation of future devices.
Through reflection on our own practice, we will consider the potential for a creativity dividend emerging from corrupted or subverted technologies. With a specific focus on the iPhone as a frustratingly sealed device, which nevertheless may be diverted from its predestined path, and the use of scientific diegetic prototypes that suggest explicit interaction, we seek to posit these devices as interpretive tools despite themselves.
Suggested reading: Anti-Solutionist Strategies: Seriously Silly Design Fiction (Blythe, M., Anderson. K., Clarke R. and Wright. P, 2016)

How does EMDR work? A dual-task approach to degrading traumatic memories

Iris Engelhard (University of Utrecht)

Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder, and a recent meta-analysis indicates that there is an additional benefit of the 'eye movements' component. These clinical data agree well with findings from well-controlled laboratory studies showing that eye movements during recall of a negative emotional memory reduce its vividness and emotional intensity, compared to recall alone. However, it has been unclear why eye movements might be effective. A working memory theory posits that both tasks (eye movements and image recall) compete for limited-capacity working memory resources, which will impair imagery, such that images become less vivid and emotional. This presentation focuses on a series of recent experiments that critically examined various predictions derived from this theory. Potential clinical implications of the theory and these empirical findings will be discussed.

Taken by the Horns

Ian Phillips

Having recently retired from ARM, my mind was drawn to think about just how much 'Electronics' has changed since I started in it. Under the glare of the search-light it became apparent that things had changed far more than I had consciously realised; resulting in some startling observations about the real role of the Design Engineer and the needs of his/her Higher Education in delivering it ... Observation which are as relevant today as they were 52yrs ago!

Narrative medicine: Pathos and the inframince membrane

Edith Doove (Plymouth University)

This seminar is an introduction to the emerging discipline of narrative medicine and aims to open a discussion regarding the interaction of affect and narrative. It looks at how Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the inframince can be applied in a field outside of art and the curatorial, but equally discusses its interactions.
Dr. Rita Charon, a general internist and narratologist, founded the Program of Narrative Medicine at Columbia University in 2000. In its "recognition that experiencing and treating sickness are language-using events" narrative medicine tries to "[retrieve] things from formlessness with words". In doing so it "gives power to the viewer and to the representer to approach and perhaps to comprehend or at least to face the real, that which happens, that which matters despite all the forces that collude to keep them invisible" (Charon and DasGupta, 2011, p. vii). Charon proposes to use "[a] metaphor of the activated cellular membrane … as a figure for the effective clinician/patient contact" (Charon, 2012. p. 342). These notions give a direct link to the concept of the inframince that draws attention to minimal differences.
In The Pathos of Distance – Affects of the Moderns (2016) Jean-Michel Rabaté uses the inframince as an introduction to and conclusion on the pathos of distance. Without directly mentioning narrative medicine he nevertheless touches on this discipline through his discussion of Siri Hustvedt’s novel The Sorrows of an American (2008) in which she narrates the effect of history on a family. In preparation of her novel Hustvedt sat in on Charon’s class for medical students and was included in the department for Narrative Medicine’s lecture series.

Suggested reading:

Behaviour change or lifestyle change? Evidence and prospects for behavioural 'spillover'

Lorraine Whitmarsh (Cardiff University)

There is increasing acknowledgement that profound changes to individual behaviour are required in order to tackle climate change, and yet policies to achieve these changes have so far met with limited success. Most people are willing to make only very small changes to their lifestyle - so new ways of encouraging green behaviour which can match the scale of the climate change challenge are needed. The UK government and several psychologists have suggested behavioural 'spillover' might be a way to achieve this. Spillover is the notion that taking up one green behaviour (e.g., recycling) can lead on to other green behaviours (e.g., taking your own bags shopping). Ultimately, this might hold the key to moving beyond piecemeal behaviour change to achieving more ambitious, holistic lifestyle change. This seminar will present initial work to explore when spillover does, does not, and could, occur using: UK correlational data, a field experiment of the Welsh carrier bag change, and lab experiments to induce behavioural spillover. Planned work to explore spillover across diverse cultures will also be outlined.

Affective and Social Signal Processing for HRI

Hatice Gunes (University of Cambridge)

Computing that is sensitive to affective and social phenomena aims to equip devices and interfaces with the means to interpret, understand, and respond to human personality, affect, moods and intentions - similarly to how humans rely on their senses to assess each other's affective and social behaviour. This talk will focus on automatic recognition of affect and social signals, and will present an overview of recent research works my team has conducted in these fields in the context of human-virtual agent interactions and human-robot interactions.

Introduction to catlearn and formal modelling (for novices)

Andy Wills (Plymouth University)

Formal modelling in psychology is failing to live up to its potential due to a lack of effective collaboration. As a first step towards solving this problem, the Catlearn Research Group have produced a set of freely-available tools for distributed collaboration. In this talk, I'll describe those tools, and the conceptual framework behind them. I'll also provide concrete examples of how these tools can be used. The approach I propose enhances, rather than supplants, more traditional forms of publication. All the resources for this project are freely available from the catlearn website.

Leveraging data driven research through Microsoft Azure

Miguel González-Fierro (Microsoft Research, Cambridge)

In this talk we will show an overview of the suite of tools that Azure can offer to data scientists and researchers. The set of options is wide. We will discuss how to spin up a Spark cluster and how to use pySpark to manage big amounts of data and create a machine learning model. We will also showcase an application in Azure ML Studio, the machine learning GUI of Azure, and demonstrate how easy and fast it is to create machine learning systems and publish them as an API. Finally, we will show how to use the data science virtual machine and the GPU virtual machines, which are targeted at high level research in machine learning and deep learning. The talk will be predominantly practical so the audience learn at a high level what Microsoft has to offer to researchers.

Self-calibrating perception through Active Efficient Coding

Jochen Triesch (FIAS Frankfurt Institute of Advance Studies)

In many biological and artificial sensory systems, perception is an active process that involves movements of the sense organs such as the eyes, ears, or whiskers. These movements must be learned and calibrated. In biological systems this process is occurring autonomously and continuously. The mechanisms underlying such self-calibration are still largely unknown. We have recently proposed a new theoretical framework called Active Efficient Coding (AEC), that tries to explain how this self-calibration may take place. In a nutshell, AEC is a generalization of classic efficient coding theories in sensory neuroscience to active perception involving movements of the sense organs. AEC posits that the self-calibration of various sensorimotor loops results from the brain learning to control the movements of its sense organs to maximize its efficiency of encoding sensory inputs. We show the feasibility of this approach for the autonomous self-calibration of vergence and tracking eye movements and demonstrate how it can be successfully implemented on a humanoid robot.

The Human Connectome: Linking Brain Network Features to Healthy and Pathological Information Processing

Marcus Kaiser (Newcastle University)

Our work on connectomics over the last 15 years has shown a small-world, modular, and hub architecture of brain networks [1,2]. Small-world features enable the brain to rapidly integrate and bind information while the modular architecture, present at different hierarchical levels, allows separate processing of various kinds of information (e.g. visual or auditory) while preventing wide-scale spreading of activation [3]. Hub nodes play critical roles in information processing and are involved in many brain diseases [4].
Nonetheless, general observations of human brain connectivity, or of patients at the group-level, have so far had little impact on understanding cognition, or deficiencies in cognition, in individual subjects. As a result, human connectome information is not used as a biomarker for diagnosis or a predictor of the most suitable treatment strategy. After discussing the organisation of brain networks, we will show how connectivity can be used to determine the disease type of individual dementia patients. An important aspect of these brain networks is their spatial organisation in terms of the length of fibre tracts and the location of brain regions [5]. However, simply observing connectivity is insufficient as small changes in network organisation might lead to large changes in network behaviour (dynamics) [6]. We therefore show how simulations can be applied to predict regions that are involved in neural processes. For epilepsy, simulations show us which regions are involved [7], which treatment approach should be used, and whether surgical intervention will be successful or not. We conclude with the role of simulations in understanding the developmental origin of diseases as determining these origins will again inform diagnosis and treatment ( These are first steps towards using connectome-based computer simulations as a tool to understand normal and pathological processing in individuals. Developing models that are based on anatomical information will be crucial to define the most suitable intervention [8].

Breakthrough Percepts - (Sub)liminal Salience Search and EEG Deception Detection on the Fringe of Awareness

Howard Bowman (University of Kent)

(Sub)liminal Salience Search (SSS) describes humans' extraordinary capacity to "preconsciously locate" stimuli that are salient to them, with the locating being in time as well as space. A particularly compelling demonstration is Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), in which the vast majority of stimuli presented are not perceived sufficiently to make them reportable (hence the term (sub)liminal), while salient ones breakthrough into consciousness and can be recalled (hence the term search). Importantly, although we may experience RSVP as a jumble of "overlaid" visual stimuli, perceptual processing is highly selective, as indicated by high identification and signal detection accuracies, which even carry over to detecting the meaning of images. Within a sequence of stimuli presented via RSVP, salient stimuli can be detected using the third positivity of the brain's electrical response (the so-called P3), which indexes a stimulus breaking into consciousness. RSVP, then, gives us a means to present many stimuli to an individual and determine which were found salient using EEG. The resulting Fringe-P3 method can be used in detecting deception, and specifically as a concealed information test. Furthermore, the pre-conscious nature of search in RSVP makes the Fringe-P3 method especially resilient to conscious strategies to confound the deception detector, so called, countermeasures. The Fringe-P3 identity detector is indeed resilient to countermeasures. I will also discuss recent findings that when presented in RSVP, famous faces, famous names, familiar faces, familiar places and own email address, break into awareness and that such breakthrough can be detected with EEG on a per-individual basis. This suggests that the Fringe-P3 method can be applied across a variety of forensics settings, e.g. face composite systems, line-ups, demonstrating familiarity to compatriots, crime-relevant locations or online identifies.

Inverse Reinforcement Learning for Telepresence Robots

Shimon Whiteson (University of Oxford)

In this talk, I will give an overview of the recently complete TERESA project, which developed a semi-autonomous telepresence robot that can navigate in a socially appropriate way and display socially appropriate body language during conversation. Then, I will describe our ongoing efforts to develop inverse reinforcement learning methods that can learn socially intelligent behaviour from example demonstrations provided by a human pilot. I will focus on the challenges of learning from failed demonstrations and learning in the context of random-tree-based planners.

Karoshi: Effects of Stress on Health and Wellbeing

Daryl O'Connor (University of Leeds)

This talk will argue that stress may indirectly contribute to health risk and reduced longevity to the extent that it produces deleterious changes in diet and/or helps maintain maladaptive health behaviours (e.g., smoking, alcohol consumption) as well as directly by influencing biological processes across the life span (e.g., blood pressure, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning). Studies investigating the relationship between chronic stress, perseverative cognition, the cortisol response and health outcomes will be presented. The second half of the talk will describe recent work investigating the role of HPA axis responses to stress in suicide attempters and ideators. The importance of studying the effects of stress across the life course and developing stress management interventions will also be highlighted.

Super-Vision - designing new vision tests with hyperacuity stimuli: rewards and challenges.

Paul Artes (Plymouth University)

Hyperacuities are a class of visual tasks with exquisitely low thresholds, with performance ~10 times better than suggested by the spacing of retinal receptors. For example, human observers can detect misalignment between two lines (Vernier acuity), or distortions of a circular object (radial deformation acuity), of the order of a few seconds of arc. This seminar will illuminate some new clinical applications of hyperacuity stimuli for vision measurements in clinical practice, and discuss what innovations will be needed to translate cutting-edge visual psychophysics into practical clinical tools.

Narrative: When Time stood still

Becalelis Brodskis (Plymouth University)

This seminar will start with a story and circumnavigate structure. The aim is to open up a discussion around the visual trope of the crossroads. A place where glimpsing a wider perspective or hesitating between directions, time might just stand still.
Resisting the notion of narrative as a linear structure, the focus is on intersecting perspectives in relation to my practice on Re-imagine Your Town, an ongoing participatory arts project and my objective of creating a forum for divergent ideas to intersect.
Brian Massumi’s ( 2015) idea of affect ‘as as a way of talking about that margin of manoeuvrability, the ‘where we might be able to go and what we might be able to do’, in every present situation.’ is useful to consider how the trope of the crossroads potentially interrupts the narrative of time.

Suggested reading:
Massumi B. (2015) The Politics of Affect, Cambridge: Polity Press

First impressions of speaker personality from voices

Phil McAleer (University of Glasgow)

Previous work from our group showed that the key personality traits listeners establish upon hearing novel voices can be reduced to a two-dimensional space aligned to ratings of Trustworthiness and Dominance. The 'Social Voice Space' shows remarkable consistency to the main personality traits found in other domains, including face perception, and is proposed to drive our decisions of whether to enact approach or avoidance behaviour. In this talk I will provide a brief summation of the 'Social Voice Space' before presenting results from ongoing work that looks to establish the stability of such personality judgements across changing listener and speaker scenarios. I will conclude by outlining work exploring a proposed positivity bias in older listeners towards younger voices.

Applied Visual Computing: Challenges and Opportunities

Hassan Ugail, The University of Bradford

Today, visual computing techniques that integrate 2D and 3D image processing, machine learning, 3D graphics and modelling technologies are taking centre stage in the progress of many disciplines. The focus of this talk will be on some of the recent developments in the field of visual computing, mostly concentrating on the work being carried out at the Centre for Visual Computing at University of Bradford. Particularly, the focus will be on new technologies for processing large data sets in 3D, visualisation and analysis. This talk will also focus on some of the challenges in the investigated topics and will identify open research problems that need to be resolved along with some future research directions.

Face analysis: from similarity to identity

Enrico Grosso, The University of Sassari

Face identification and face verification are among the most successful applications of image analysis and understanding; this explains the significant attention face analysis has received during the past several years. This trend is largely motivated by the wide range of commercial and law enforcement applications requiring personal authentication, but face analysis is much more, as it gives access not only to the basic recognition of individuals but also to several important types of social information like categorization, kin recognition and detection of emotional cues.
This talk is mainly about face recognition, which is often related to 2D image matching but which also significantly differs from 2D image matching for a number of reasons. In fact, even though current face recognition systems have systematically improved up to a good level of maturity, their application in unconstrained environments is still challenging and this is mainly because 2D image matching techniques fail in the conditions imposed by many real applications. From this perspective, current systems are still far away from capabilities of humans.
The problem is tackled focusing first on the human perception of similarity and showing that, despite its fundamental role, measuring perceived similarity between faces is not trivial from both a theoretical and methodological point of view. Then, a special case of similarity judgment, that is kinship, is investigated in order to understand whether the perceived similarity is the only criterion adopted in judgments of kinship and similarity, or whether additional both visual and conceptual cues are used. Finally, the talk argues about computational models for face recognition and discusses some recent hybrid/multi-stage methods, combining holistic, feature-based and 3D approaches, that recently allowed to increase the efficiency and the robustness of the identification process.

Narrative: What Remains Unsaid

Amani Alsaad, TransTechnology research, Plymouth

The aim of this seminar will be to open a discussion around the cross-cultural aspects of psychotherapy, affect, and empathy, and what remains unsaid from a multicultural point of view. The context of the discussion is my doctoral research exploring alternative understandings of creative psychotherapy in the Arabian gulf and that of Arab Muslim background individuals in the UK. The discussion will begin with a brief history of alternative psychotherapy methods from Muslim culture, including the use of ZamZam water. It will reflect on how these healing methods do not fall under mental health services, and the possible labeling of mental health service users in the Gulf States. Drawing on narratives from two experiments that explore affect and empathy: Masaru Emoto’s (2004) work with the memory of water and Huet and Holttum’s (2016) exploration of art therapist’s own experiences of mental distress, it will consider similarities in these stories about how expressing empathy can affect emotional, physical, and spiritual states. For example, based on the principle of the bio-magnetic energy field, Emoto suggests that for every negative emotion there is an exactly opposite positive emotion that can be communicated (Stebnicki, 2008).

Suggested reading:

Individual motor signatures and socio-motor biomarkers in schizophrenia

Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, University of Exeter

Human movement has been studied for decades, and dynamic laws of motion that are common to all humans have been derived. Yet, every individual moves differently from everyone else (faster/slower, harder/smoother, etc.). We propose an index of such variability, namely an individual motor signature (IMS) able to capture the subtle differences in the way each of us moves. We show that the IMS of a person is time-invariant and that it significantly differs from those of other individuals.
Furthermore, in an effort to establish reliable indicators of schizophrenia we have developed a method that could detect deficits in movement and social interactions, both characteristics of the disorder. We asked people to perform movements alone, and to mirror the movements of a computer avatar or a humanoid robot. Using statistical learning techniques we were able to distinguish people with schizophrenia from healthy participants with accuracy and specificity slightly better than clinical interviews and comparable to tests based on much more expensive neuroimaging methods. This methodology could help with diagnosis of schizophrenia and to monitor patients’ responses to treatment, but needs to be tested further before being potentially widely applied in clinical practice.

Remembering and believing in the legal context

Henry Otgaar, Maastricht University

Memory plays a vital role in the courtroom. In the majority of criminal trials, forensic technical evidence such as DNA-samples is lacking. Legal professionals such as judges have to base their decisions then on eyewitness testimonies and statements provided by suspects. Since such statements contain recollections of eyewitnesses or suspects, it is of the utmost relevance that memory experts can help legal professionals in educating them about the role of memory in court. Legal cases and experimental studies have shown that people can falsely remember entire traumatic episodes such as sexual abuse which has led to wrongful convictions. In this talk, I will present the latest work on the role of memory in court. I will do this by presenting new work from my lab and will clarify this work with legal cases in which I was involved as an expert witness. Also, I will make the suggestion that in many cases, people do not remember but merely believe that an event occurred and that such beliefs are likely to play a more important part in court than memory.

Neuro-Robotics - Deep Learning and Cognitive Developmental Robotics

Tetsuya Ogata, Waseda University

In this talk, I'll introduce our studies on Neuro-robotics with both contexts of the application of deep learning and the academic research of cognitive developmental robotics. One of the deep learning applications is a combination of a convolution neural model and a recurrent neural model which enable a humanoid robot to manipulate the various objects including soft materials. By the end-to-end learning of temporal sequences of raw images and joint angles, the robot can generate the object manipulation behaviors from the corresponding image sequences, and vice versa. One of the academic studies is a tool-body assimilation model which is a capability of using tools as if they are part of their bodies. The model uses a recurrent neural net for modeling the “body” dynamics. Furthermore the network dynamics are modulated by the bias input for “body with tool” in the same manner of transfer learning. Experiments with a humanoid robot "Actroid" show that the generalization capability of neural networks provides the model the ability to deal with unknown tools.

Reality: Illusions of Narrative, Narratives of Illusion

Rupert Allan and James Sweeting (Transtechnology Research, Plymouth)

This seminar aims to clarify discussion of material power of story to invoke 'play-space', and to shape experience of behavioural engagement. This may be regarded as the affective quality of illusory engagement. The focus will be towards understanding the conversation between design and gaze, through production and consumption of this virtual 'play-space'.
We would like to use the way Foucault (1966) deals with this positionality and choice of 'authorship' in the Las Meninas essay to identify how dramatic distance and relational play creates this illusion in personal creative responses to the spatial imaginary in the novel Ready Player One (2011), and Spec Ops: The Line (2012), texts which disrupt and affirm cultural tropes, deliberately interrogating their own integrity.
The context of discussion is reflective practice on the reciprocal modes of producer and consumer - the art director (set designer) occupying the imaginary position of cinema viewer when reading/proscribing; the player-reviewer experiencing illusional narratives of navigating and enacting pastiche in the fictional psychogeography of the game. Citing the multiple levels of role-play, level, or technological distancing within films-about-videogames, this will be a comparative study of conversation between formats, intrinsic role-plays, and remediations of consensually-shared 'mythemes', 'legend', or 'lieux-de-memoire'.
Narrative instructs our specific relational position within the text, but through calculated disruptions, allows us agency to move around, often consciously re-occupying other positions. The seminar will aim to open up a discussion around this capacity of narrative to implicate the viewer within a virtual space, suggesting that this can reach beyond the text, rendering the participant complicit, even unwillingly entrained and entrapped in a self-reflexive practice of authorship.

Suggested readings:

The Heart of Human Sociality

Keith Jensen, University of Manchester

Human prosocial behaviour might be unique in the animal kingdom. The fact that we cooperate on a large scale with nonkin might be underlain by psychological mechanisms not seen in their full form in other species. Other-regarding concerns, concern for the welfare of others, might be a core component of human sociality. While empathy might also us to know something about the feelings of others, we need to care about others so that we act. However, the ability to feel into others and to be concerned about others does not guarantee prosociality. We may also be uniquely antisocial, taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others and distress at their happiness. These concerns can motivate a range of behaviours from helping to punishment, from fairness to spite, from morality to cruelty. In this talk, I will present experimental evidence from human children and chimpanzees to suggest that other-regarding concerns emerge early in children and might not exist in our closest living relatives.

Human interaction in virtual environments: learning and professional experiences

Beatrice Ligorio, University of Bari, Italy

Being online can imply several degrees of interaction: from just sharing and lurking to deep interaction leading to learning, professional development and identity changes. In this talk, I will present several experiences conducted in diverse virtual environments ranging from asynchronous web-forum to three-dimensional spaces. All these experiences have educational aims: in some cases, students around 9-10 years old are involved; other cases involve university students interacting with entrepreneurs. The common red-tread is to proof that humans can interaction online in deep ways, disavowing the common idea that without face- to-face and visual contacts, interaction may be superficial. Of course, theoretical-based orchestration is needed and the socio-constructivist approach provides useful insights.

Social cognition in human-robot interaction

Agnieszka Wykowska, iit Genova

In our daily lives we continuously engage in social interactions with others, and this is why the human brain has developed various mechanisms of social cognition, which allow to detect and convey social signals, and socially attune with others. Being at the forefront of the new era, in which robots will be among us at our homes and offices, we need to ask a question whether humans can also socially attune with artificial agents. In this talk I will focus on the mechanisms of social attunement with humanoid robots, and various factors that might influence the attunement. I will first discuss the general approach that we take towards examining mechanisms of social cognition in human-robot interaction (HRI) – the approach of using objective methods of cognitive neuroscience together with non-verbal Turing tests. Then I will present results of studies in which we investigated various factors which play a role in social attunement, factors such as attributing intentionality to the artificial agents, direct social presence, human-like behaviour. The talk will conclude with an outlook to the future – questions that need to be answered through empirical research, together with discussion on best methodology and experimental protocols to address these questions.

Participating Research Groups

For more up-to-date information and titles/abstracts please visit the relevant research group websites:





Linked up is a collaboration between CogNovo, TransTech, ICCMR, and CRNS