Colloquia Series 2017-18

March 5, 2018

Speaker: Dr. Brendan J Gaesser, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, SUNY Albany

Ttitle: Episodic morality: Scenes, minds, and decision-making

Abstract:  Broadly, I seek to understand how imagining the future (i.e., episodic simulation) and remembering the past (i.e., episodic memory) guide social decision-making and behavior. I am particularly interested in investigating the cognitive mechanisms by which episodic simulation and memory can be used to facilitate moral decision-making and altruistic economic behavior directed at benefiting the welfare of others (e.g. charitable donations). Are people more willing to lend a helping hand when they can imagine and remember how to do so? In this talk I will present evidence that humans’ ability to construct episodes by vividly imagining or remembering specific prosocial events can be used to facilitate a willingness to help others. Emerging data suggests this episodic mechanism dynamically interacts with--but independently from—mentalizing (i.e., increasing perspective taking for the person in need embedded within an episode). Clinical and theoretical implications will be discussed.

Time and Location:  12 PM, Faculty Club

February 13, 2018  **THIS IS A TUESDAY**

Speaker:  Dr. William Norton, Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour, University of Leicester, UK

Ttitle: Screening for novel aggression therapeutics in zebrafish

Abstract:  The zebrafish is a popular model for behavioural neuroscience due it is small size, ease of maintenance and genetic similarity to other vertebrates. My lab uses zebrafish to investigate the genetic and neurobiological basis of aggression, an adaptive behaviour that is also a common symptom of several psychiatric disorders. In this talk I will present some of our recent research in which we have used zebrafish to screen for novel drugs to reduce aggression. I will describe our screening setup and present a novel findings about a drug that appears to selectively alter aggression without changing other behaviours..

Time and Location:  2pm; UTM Council Chambers Room DV 3130

February 5, 2018 **CANCELLED**

Speaker:  Dr. Nelson Cowan,Curators Distinguished Professor of Psychology,University of Missouri-Columbia

Ttitle: Working memory capacity examined from three perspectives: Converging evidence from cognition, neuroimaging, and child development

Abstract:  Working memory is the small amount of information held temporarily and used to carry out a wide range of mental functions, including planning, problem-solving, and language comprehension and production. After many years of working memory research, there still is considerable disagreement as to why working memory capacity is limited, and how that limit affects thinking ability. By focusing on these key questions across methodological areas, I have found that different methods make complementary contributions to our understanding. Behavioral cognitive research provides the target behavior to be explained, neuroimaging contributes clues to the mechanism, and child development provides and understanding of how adult capability is constructed from its most basic elements. I will describe a view in which working memory is driven by a focus of attention that users like to keep unencumbered as much as possible, by relying on the rest of the memory system.

Time and Location:  12pm; UTM Council Chambers Room DV 3130

November 6, 2017

Speaker:  Justin M. Carré, Ph.D, Associate ProfessorDepartment of Psychology, Nipissing University

Ttitle: Does testosterone increase human aggression? A psychopharmacogenetic approach

Abstract:  Acute changes in testosterone (T) during competitive interactions may serve to fine-tune ongoing and/or subsequent aggressive behaviour. Recent work suggests that individual difference factors (e.g., self-construal, trait dominance) moderate the relationship between T dynamics and human aggression. In this talk, I will discuss two pharmacological challenge experiments investigating the extent to which a single application of T rapidly potentiates aggressive behaviour in healthy young men (n = 120, Exp 1; n = 400, Exp 2) and whether this effect depends on personality/cultural factors and/or genetic variation of the androgen receptor..

Time and Location:  12pm - 1pm; UTM Council Chambers Room DV 3130

October 2, 2017

Speaker: Kamila Szulc-Lerch, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Hospital for Sick Kids Toronto

Title: Imaging the developing brain: Growth, injury & repair

Abstract: A key issue in childhood brain injury are the late effects on cognitive and related psychological function. Dr. Szulc-Lerch will illustrate this based on her studies of children with brain tumours and mouse models of radiation induced brain injury and cerebral palsy. She will also discuss new evidence showing that some of the acquired brain injury can be ameliorated by pharmacological (metformin) and lifestyle interventions (physical exercise) in both mice and humans.

Time and Location:  12pm - 1pm; UTM Faculty Club

September 25, 2017

Speaker: Dr. Scott Johnson, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles 

Title: Social attention in infancy

Social attention is the process of perceiving visual features that specify conspecifics and other animate entities, and it is vital to our ability to observe, understand, and participate in social interactions. Research on infant perception of faces and biological motion has revealed early-developing biases to attend to social information that are shaped by experience. Hence a currently popular view is that innate preferences for faces and biological motion become tuned to specific features of social content that are present in the infant’s immediate social environment, facilitating rapid identification and categorization of social information that is most relevant and appropriate for social interactions. This talk will present recent and new work—on face detection in cluttered scenes, attention to own- and other-race faces, and perception of social categories in biological motion—that is difficult to accommodate by this view, and raises important questions about the role of experience in shaping infants’ social attention.  Broader implications for theories of social development will be discussed.

Time and Location:  12pm - 1:30pm; UTM Faculty Club


More information:
Jodie Stewart (