Peters receives CIFAR funding to study structure of thought
- January 17, 2023
- Award is part of “Scialog” series designed to accelerate scientific breakthroughs
Megan Peters, University of California, Irvine assistant professor of cognitive sciences, has received a $50,000 Collaborative Innovation award from the Scialog: Molecular Basis of Cognition initiative. Funded by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation, The Kavli Foundation and Walder Foundation, the initiative - short for "science + dialog" - was created to accelerate scientific breakthroughs by stimulating intensive interdisciplinary conversation and community building around a theme of global importance. Peters’ research team – which includes Travis Baker, Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers University, and Robert Wilson, Psychology, University of Arizona – will be studying the structure of thought in naturalistic behaviors.
“This project aims to use state of the art natural language processing to understand the subject experiences of decision-making and problem solving,” says Peters. “We hope to reveal new insight into how people make decisions under uncertain conditions, both in the lab and in real-world settings. We’re very excited about this project!”
Peters studies perception, perceptual decision making, and the subjective experiences that accompany the brain’s ability to understand what we see and make sense of the world around us amidst constant noise. Computational modeling, psychophysics, and non-invasive neuroimaging – MRI, EEG, and brain stimulation – are tools she employs in her Cognitive & Neural Computation Lab to understand how the brain creates subjective experience, behavior, and perception.
Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Templeton World Charity Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation with findings published in Psychonomic Bulleting & Review, Nature Human Behavior, eLife, and Trends in Cognitive Sciences. She’s created curriculum for GRE and SAT prep courses offered through the nonprofit organization Acceso Academy (which she co-founded) with funding provided by several community organizations including Juntos Podemos/Together We Can Foundation, the Institute for Mexicans Abroad and the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, and the Central City Neighborhood Partners and the City of Los Angeles. She's also co-founder and president of Neuromatch Academy, a multinational, multifaceted three-week neuroscience networking, mentoring and education program for students and professionals interested in computational neuroscience and deep learning. In 2019, she was named a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar in Brain, Mind and Consciousness.
Peters received her bachelor’s in cognitive science at Brown University, and master’s and Ph.D. in psychology with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience and computational cognition at UCLA. She then worked for three years as a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA before she was hired as an assistant professor of bioengineering at UC Riverside. Her UCI appointment formally began in March 2020.
Scialog funding for Peters’ work is provided by CIFAR while her teammates – Baker and Wilson – are funded by RCSA and the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation. They’ll attend an October conference to present a progress report on their work.