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Premembering Perception

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Dominant models of attention are mostly concerned with the prioritisation of perceptual analyses according to our current goals. Substantial progress has been made in understanding the neural systems and mechanisms involved. The standard view is that top-down, goal-related signals maintained in working memory influence perceptual competition to select relevant items and inhibit distraction in the environment by acting upon receptive-field properties of events. However, top-down biases are not restricted to operate through receptive-field properties; they can also act upon the predicted timings of events as well as upon other, higher-order properties. Furthermore, short-term goal-related signals are not the only source of top-down influences upon perception. In everyday cognition, our long-term memories also play a major role in guiding the proactive and dynamic anticipation of events. In my talk, I will review studies from our laboratory that investigate how we can orient attention dynamically, taking into account the predicted timings of events; and how we use long-term memories to guide perception. Our findings suggest that in addition to being essential for assembling fragments of past experiences so that we can ‘remember’ them, memories are equally important for projecting predictions to guide assembly of cohesive percepts from incoming stimulation, working together with our current goals to ‘premember’ perception.

(3) biography

Kia Nobre is a cognitive neuroscientist interested in understanding the principles of the neural systems that support cognitive functions in the human brain. Her current research investigates how neural activity linked to perception and cognition is dynamically modulated according to memories, task goals, and expectations. She is also interested in understanding how these fine and large-scale regulatory mechanisms develop, and how they are disturbed in disorders of mental health. Her work integrates behavioural methods with multiple non-invasive techniques to image and stimulate the human brain.

Kia grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and then completed her higher education in the United States, where she obtained her PhD from Yale University. She moved to Oxford in 1994 to take up a Lectureship in Cognitive Neuroscience and a Junior Research Fellowship at New College, and then became a University Lecturer/Reader/Professor at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford and Tutorial Fellow of Psychology at New College (1996-2014). She is currently the first holder of the Statutory Chair in Translational Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, held between the Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry. She directs the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity and heads the Brain & Cognition Lab. She is also Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, in Chicago.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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