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Welcome, First Years!

by Melissa Troyer


Welcome to the incoming first-year class of 2014, introduced here. (more)



Miller, L.E, Longo, M.R., Saygin, A.P. (2014). Tool morphology constrains the effects of tool use on body representations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. In press.
What factors constrain whether tool use modulates the user's body representations? To date, studies on representational plasticity following tool use have primarily focused on the act of using the tool. Here, we investigated whether the tool's morphology also serves to constrain plasticity. In 2 experiments, we varied whether the tool was morphologically similar to a target body part (Experiment 1, hand; Experiment 2, arm). Participants judged the tactile distance between pairs of points applied to their tool-using target body surface and forehead (control surface) before and after tool use. We applied touch in 2 orientations, allowing us to quantify how tool use modulates the representation's shape. Significant representational plasticity in hand shape (increase in width, decrease in length) was found when the tool was morphologically similar to a hand (Experiment 1A), but not when the tool was arm-shaped (Experiment 1B). Conversely, significant representational plasticity was found on the arm when the tool was arm-shaped (Experiment 2B), but not when hand-shaped (Experiment 2A). Taken together, our results indicate that morphological similarity between the tool and the effector constrains tool-induced representational plasticity. The embodiment of tools may thus depend on a match-to-template process between tool morphology and representation of the body.


Research Opportunities (199s)
  • Tools, Virtual Reality and Your Body
    In everyday life there is a boundary between our bodies and the external environment. Is this perceived boundary fixed or can it be altered? What happens to your body perception when you use a tool? What about when you immersed in virtual reality? The Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology Lab (http://www.sayginlab.org) ...
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  • Space, Time, and Gesture
    While it is clear that people around the world talk and think about time in terms of spatial concepts, many questions remain regarding the link between spatial and temporal concepts. The Embodied Cognition lab is interested in understanding cognition from the perspective of the embodied mind, investigating how the peculiarities ...
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  • Cognitive Processes
    “Raednig thees wrods semes to be esaeir tahn you mgiht hvae tohuhgt; waht colud epxlian tihs?” Could you read the sentence above? Having any trouble understanding or recognizing these words? How possible it could be to understand such a sentence, with/without recognize words? What could you explain your effortless ability ...
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  • Language Development and Remediation in Children
    We are evaluating two interventions for dyslexia that involve training the temporal dynamics of the visual system (magnocellular pathway) and the auditory system, and whether the two interventions together have super-additive effects. As a Research Assistant, you would be traveling to one or two of five participating local elementary schools ...
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  • Body Movements: Dots, Humans, Robots
    The perception and comprehension of others’ actions and body movements is ubiquitous and important. Our lab carries out a range of behavioral, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological experiments on how people perceive others' body movements. In many experiments, we use body movements depicted by point-lights (like this: http://sayginlab.org/bio-highkick.gif). We are also exploring ...
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Recent News & Links (see all)


UCSD Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program

The UC San Diego Strategic Planning process has identified four research themes to focus on as we build the student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented public university of the future.


UCSD Professor Uses Zombies To Teach About Neuroscience

KPBS article: There's no escaping zombies. They've infected every corner of pop culture and more recently have been shambling into academia. Professor Bradley Voytek combines the living dead and neuroscience in the new book, "Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?"


Founding Chair of Cognitive Science returns to UCSD

Don Norman, an engineer and psychologist famous for pushing companies to develop products that are easy to use, is setting up a design lab at UC San Diego, a campus he left decades ago to help shape the future of Apple Computer.


Coursera and UC San Diego Partner to Offer New Interaction Design Specialization

Learners in massive open online courses offered by Coursera can now enroll in 18 new Specializations – a targeted sequence of courses designed to build high-demand skills and subject matter expertise. One of the specializations  “Interaction Design”  is being led by University of California, San Diego Professor Scott Klemmer.


Brad Voytek and brainSCANr

BrainSCANr is designed to help neuroscientists choose research projects, a device by Bradley Voytek of the University of California, San Diego, and his wife Jessica.


UCSD Conference for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, & Humanities (CRASSH)

Are you an undergraduate interested in the Arts, Social Sciences, or Humanities?  Then consider presenting your research at the UCSD Undergraduate Conference for Research in the Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities (CRASSH) to be held on November 4 from 10am to 2pm at the UCSD Price Center.


Department Events (see all)

Tanya Luhrmann (CogSci Colloquium)

Invisible others: How metacognitive practices make the unseen real

For a while now my work has settled on the way that people monitor and attend to their cognitive and affective experiences. The first part of my talk will describe my ethnographic
work with evangelical Christians who seek a personal, intimate relationship with God—one
in which God will talk back. My work suggests that these Christians use prayer practice to
monitor their mental experience and that they selectively ...
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Mon, Nov 3rd, 12:00pm-1:00pm (CSB 003)
(2 days, 9 hours from now)


D@L: Gad Shaanan

The #1 factor in great design is STRATEGY!
Without it, design is a commodity.

ABSTRACT: The story behind my presentation is twofold and intertwined. It is first and foremost how I integrated strategy into all the individual product designs that I have worked on over the years, and at the same time about how I used this larger strategic thinking in the creation and development of my companies. With this strategic philosophy at the forefront, I built GadShaananDesign to ...
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Mon, Nov 3rd, 4:00pm-5:15pm (Design Lab, Atkinson Hall)
(2 days, 13 hours from now)


Sarah Creel (CRL talk)

In constrained contexts, preschoolers’ recognition of accented words is excellent

Do unfamiliar accents impair young children’s language comprehension? Infants detect familiarized word-forms heard in accented speech by 13 months, yet 4-year-olds have difficulty repeating isolated words in unfamiliar accents. The current work attempts to integrate these disparate findings by testing accented word recognition with or without semantic constraint, visual-contextual constraint, and rapid perceptual accent adaptation. Monolingual English-learning preschoolers (n=32) completed an eye-tracked word recognition test. On each trial, four ...
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Tue, Nov 4th, 4:00pm-5:00pm (CSB 280)
(3 days, 13 hours from now)


Dedre Gentner (CogSci Colloquium)

Analogy: The key to higher-order cognition

Analogical processes are central in higher-order cognition. Analogical comparison engages a process of structural alignment and mapping that fosters learning and reasoning in at least three distinct ways: it highlights common relational systems; it promotes inferences; and t calls attention to potentially important differences between situations. It can also lead to re-representing the situations in ways that reveal new facets. An important outcome of analogical comparison is that the common relational structure becomes ...
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Mon, Nov 10th, 12:00pm-1:00pm (CSB 003)
(1 week, 2 days from now)


CRL talk

Tue, Nov 11th, 4:00pm-5:00pm (CSB 280)
(1 week, 3 days from now)


D@L Krzysztof Gajos

Wed, Nov 12th, 4:00pm-5:15pm (Design Lab, Atkinson Hall)
(1 week, 4 days from now)


D@L Krzysztof Gajos

Design at Scale for For the Long Tail

ABSTRACT: I see two limitations of the common design practice that I would like to help overcome. First, Important problems follow a power law distribution: a few of them affect a large number of people each, but there is also a long tail of problems, all very important, but each only to a small number of people. Design approaches that require substantial amount of expert work make design too scarce and ...
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Wed, Nov 12th, 4:00pm-5:15pm (Design Lab, Atkinson Hall)
(1 week, 4 days from now)


Campus-wide Events (see all)

Elizabeth Phelps (Psych talk)

Changing Fear

Animal models of fear learning provide a basis for understanding human fears. This research has demonstrated that the amygdala is necessary for the acquisition, storage and expression of fear learning. This talk will explore how the neural mechanisms identified in animal models are consistent with human brain function and extend this research to the complex learning situations more typical of human experience. I will first describe how the mechanisms of simple associative fear learning extend to ...
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Tue, Nov 4th, 12:00pm-1:00pm (Crick Conference Room (3rd floor of Mandler Hall))
(3 days, 9 hours from now)


Patricia Smith Churchland (TDLC talk)

Neurophilosophy: What’s the Big Idea?

Although much has been learned from neuroscience and psychology about mental functions, such as learning, remembering, self-control and decision-making, some philosophers argue that such empirical enterprises can never address the deep, foundational questions about the nature of the mind. Thus some philosophers of mind believe that they own a problem space that is concerned with conceptual necessities – necessary truths about psychological states and processes, discovered by deploying conceptual analysis, intuitions and ‘thought experiments’. ...
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Wed, Nov 5th, 3:00pm-4:00pm (Sanford Consortium / Duane J. Roth Auditorium)
(4 days, 12 hours from now)