The Department of Cognitive Sciences and Center for Cognitive Neuroscience present

“Prefrontal Cortex, Dopamine, and Autism: Computational Connections”
with David C. Noelle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Cognitive & Information Sciences, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, University of California, Merced

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
12:00–1:00 p.m.
Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway (SBSG), Room 1517

This talk presents a general computational cognitive neuroscience model of interactions between the prefrontal cortex and the mesolimbic dopamine system which, when damaged, produces patterns of behavior that qualitatively and quantitatively match those observed in people with autism.  The range of deficits captured by this approach is fairly broad, including aspects of executive dysfunction, stimulus overselectivity during conditioning, impaired implicit learning abilities, lexical disambiguation difficulties, and generalization problems in category learning.  Thus, this computational account potentially offers a common neuroscientific explanation for diverse phenomena that have traditionally been explored within disjoint psychological frameworks. The proposed model will be described, and simulation results will be presented to demonstrate its ability to capture the performance of both healthy and frontally damaged individuals on tasks involving working memory, cognitive control, and selective attention.  Starting with this model of healthy performance, patterns of behavior matching those observed in people with autism will be produced by a simple disruption of dopamine modulation.  Fits to behavioral data will be presented for a diverse collection of cognitive tasks.

David C. Noelle is an assistant professor at the University of California, Merced with appointments in Cognitive and Information Sciences (CIS) as well as Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).  He received his Ph.D. in cognitive science and computer science from the University of California, San Diego.  His research focuses primarily on computational cognitive neuroscience models of cognitive control, learning, and memory.  The ongoing work reported in this talk is being conducted in collaboration with Trent Kriete, Ph.D., who is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

For further information, please contact Adam Cook, or 949-824-6692.

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