In June, I took some time away from the Cogs Lab to travel to the University of Iowa to attend a summer school on Dynamic Field Theory (DFT). I made the trip because the theory will be the basis for a model that I plan to submit as the core component in my masters thesis. DFT is a theory that describes populations of neural units whose activation values change over time and in response to external stimulation. My goal is to use this theory to model data that we have been observing in experiments conducted in the lab over the last few years. Check out the papers section of the webpage for some of these results, particularly the paper titled: Extremely selective attention: Eye-tracking studies of dynamic allocation of attention to stimulus features in categorization.
At the summer school each day started at 8:30 sharp. The morning session consisted of lecture by either John Spencer or Gregor Schoner. Although the lectures were extremely stimulating, ample coffee was provided in order to keep our brains operating at maximum efficiency. Each afternoon was spent in the computer lab working with simulators that had been developed by Sebastian Schneegs, a member of Gregor’s lab. These simulators aimed to let us visualize some of the concepts that were presented in morning lecture, as well as to prepare us for sessions later in the week in which we would build a DFT model of our own. My own personal project was to modify a model of saccadic eye-movements that would learn to respond to external feedback and fixate on a region of a display indicated by the experimenter.
Although the days were long there was plenty of time to socialize. One of the fellows from Germany brought along some electronics and had all of us build our very own autonomous robots. The robots featured a very small photovoltaic cell, and when designed in the right way would exhibit light searching behaviors.
Thanks to all the people in Iowa that made this happen!