“Visual perception of actions: An interdisciplinary work between cognitive neuroscience and social robotics”
By Burcu Ayşen Ürgen (Bilkent, Psychology/NSC)
Date: Friday, 21st December, 2018
Time: 1240 – 1330
Organized by the Mind, Brain and Behavior Research Group at Bilkent University.
Abstract: One of the most important skills organisms possess is the ability to perceive the actions of other organisms in their environment. This skill is supported by a network of brain regions including occipito-temporal cortex, parietal cortex, and premotor cortex in primates, known as the Action Observation Network. Despite a growing body of literature, the functional properties of this network remain largely unknown. We take a multi-modal, interdisciplinary, and computational approach to characterize the functional properties of this network in humans. To this end, we 1) collaborated with a robotics lab to vary various aspects of actions including visual appearance and movement kinematics of the agents, 2) used a wide range of brain measurement modalities (fMRI and EEG) together with state-of-the-art computational techniques while human subjects performed action perception tasks. While our findings improve our understanding of the Action Observation Network, the interdisciplinary work with robotics also allows us to address questions regarding human factors in artificial agent design in social robotics and human-robot interaction such as uncanny valley, which is concerned with what kind of artificial agents we should design so that humans can easily accept them as social partners.
About the speaker: Burcu Ayşen Ürgen is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology and the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Graduate Program, Bilkent University. She is also affiliated with Aysel Sabuncu Brain Research Center and National Magnetic Resonance Research Center (UMRAM). She directs the Cognitive Computational Neuroscience Lab. She received her PhD in Cognitive Science from University of California, San Diego (USA) in 2015. Prior to her PhD, she did her BS in Computer Engineering at Bilkent University, and MS in Cognitive Science at Middle East Technical University. Following her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma (Italy). Dr. Ürgen’s primary research area is human visual perception with a focus on biological motion and action perception. In addition to behavioral methods, she uses a wide range of invasive and non-invasive neuroimaging techniques including fMRI, EEG, and intracranial recordings to study the neural basis of visual perception. Her research commonly utilizes state-of-the-art computational techniques including machine learning, computer vision, and effective connectivity. Besides her basic cognitive neuroscience research, Dr. Ürgen also pursues an interdisciplinary research between social robotics and cognitive neuroscience to investigate the human factors that are important for successful interaction with artificial agents such as robots. She received an Interdisciplinary Scholars Award during her PhD studies at the University of California San Diego for her interdisciplinary work between cognitive neuroscience and social robotics.