plans for the next four years

After four years of planning, I now know what I am doing for the next four (and hopefully more); I have just heard that I’ve been accepted for the Birkbeck Psychology PhD. I started their part-time BSc back in 2001 with this vague target that I’d like to get into academic psychology. The degree is all over in a few weeks and then when October rolls around this year, I’ll be a full-time student again for first time since ’96, but this time I’m serious!

Although in some ways it is an anti-climax to finally possess the piece of paper. In others, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.. after a decade of dilly-dallying with ‘a career’ I may now have found a vocation. I knew almost immediately that brains were better than banking. (That’s a no brainer, as these no brainers in banking might say.) But I didn’t quite know which bit of the brain or way of prodding it would be best for me. If you’d asked me a year or three ago, I’d have said I liked babies, computers and cognition but I couldn’t have wired them together into anything interesting. Now, I have a field, a topic and supervisors too. (It just remains to get funding.. ah!)

A neuroconstructivist investigation of object knowledge and action in development and in developmental disorders.
Supervisors: Denis Mareschal, Michael Thomas

The aim of this research will be to use connectionist modeling techniques together with experimental data from infants and atypical populations to better understand both the development of (seeming) cognitive modularity and the causes and dynamics of developmental disorders. Specifically, I will extend the connectionist dual-route model (‘where’ / ‘what’) of Mareschal et al. (1999) to make further predictions about infant object knowledge and action. Then I will investigate if disruption of this model produces deficits in spatio-temporal processing (dorsal route) analogous to those found in autism (Spencer et al., 2000), dyslexia (Hansen et al., 2001) and Williams Syndrome (Paul et al., 2002).

Hansen, P., Stein, J., Orde, S., Winter, J., and Talcott, J. (2001). Are dyslexics’ visual deficits limited to measures of dorsal stream function? NeuroReport, 12(7):1527-1530.

Mareschal, D., Plunkett, K., and Harris, P. (1999). A computational and neuropsychological account of object-oriented behaviours in infancy. Developmental Science, 2:306-317.

Paul, B., Stiles, J., Passarotti, A., Bavar, N., and Bellugi, U. (2002). Face and place processing Williams syndrome: evidence for a dorsal-ventral dissociation. NeuroReport, 13(9):1115-1119.

Spencer, J., O’Brien, J., Riggs, K., Braddick, O., Atkinson, J., and Wattam-Bell, J. (2000). Motion processing in autism: evidence for a dorsal stream deficiency. NeuroReport, 11(12):2765-2767.

I’ll probably refer to this book a fair bit too:

Mareschal, D., Johnson, M., Sirios, S., Spratling, M., Thomas, M.S.C., & Westermann, G. (forthcoming). Neuroconstructivism: How the brain constructs cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press

About caspar

Caspar is just one monkey among billions. Battering his keyboard without expectations even of peanuts, let alone of aping the Immortal Bard. By day he is an infantologist at Birkbeck Babylab, by night he runs
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