Event Detail

Fri Oct 28, 2016
5101 Tolman Hall, 11 AM–1 PM
Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Justin Wood (University of Southern California)
Building newborn minds in virtual worlds

How do newborns learn to see and understand the world? Although philosophers and psychologists have debated the origins of the mind for centuries, two major barriers have hindered progress. First, human infants cannot be raised in strictly controlled environments from birth, so it has not been possible to examine how specific experiences shape the newborn mind. Second, infants cannot be observed continuously from the onset of vision, so it has not been possible to measure the development of visual cognition with high precision. To overcome these limitations, my lab developed an automated controlled-rearing method that can be used to measure a newborn animal’s behavior continuously (24/7) within strictly controlled virtual environments. With this method, we have started constructing a large-scale input-output map, which reveals how specific sensory inputs relate to specific behavioral outputs in a newborn animal. In this talk, I will focus on our work examining how object recognition emerges in the newborn brain. Further, I will show how controlled-rearing data can be linked to models of visual cortex for characterizing the computations underlying newborn vision. I will argue that controlled rearing can serve as a critical tool for testing between different theories and models, for the developmental psychology and computational neuroscience communities.