Mechanisms of Cognitive Control: Towards a Neurobiologically Constrained Framework for Modeling Human Cognition
This Integrative Behavioral Science Center seeks to develop a framework for understanding human cognition, grounded in principles specifying the character of human cognitive processes, and constrained by properties of the underlying neural mechanisms. The Center will exploit this framework to guide formulation of explicit, testable models of normal and disordered cognition, including models of the development of cognitive functions and of their disintegration as a result of brain damage or disease. A fundamental tenet is that cognition is a emergent phenomenon, arising from the interactions of cooperating processing elements organized into specialized populations. One aim of the center will be to investigate the utility of explicit models that are formulated in terms of this approach, addressing many aspects of cognition including semantic knowledge, language processing, cognitive control, perception, learning and memory. A second aim will also investigate the principles that are embodied in the models, including principles of learning, processing, and representation. Learning will be a central focus, since it plays a crucial role in cognitive development, acquisition of skills, formation of memories, and remediation of cognitive functions. A third aim of the Center will be to incorporate constraints from neurosience. Findings from neuroscience will guide the specification of the principles and the formulation of domain-specific details of particular models, and will provide target experimental observations against which to assess the adequacy of the models. In addition, the Center will makeuse of neurophysiological methods in animals and functional brain imaging in humans to test predictions and generate additional data needed to constrain and inform model development. The Center will provide training funds for interdisciplinary research fellowships, to train junior scientists in the convergent use of behavioral, computational, and neuroscience methodologies. The outcome of the Center’s efforts will be a fuller characterization of the nature of human cognitive processes, a clearer formulation of the underlying principles, and a more complete understanding of normal and disordered functions across many domains of cognition.