CogSci Colloquium Talk: “Butterfly effects” in perceptual development


Prof. Pawan Sinha

Professor at Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Title: ‘Butterfly Effects’ in perceptual development
Day: Friday, 23rd of April 2021
Time: 6:00 PM (IST).

How might atypicalities in early perceptual development impact later proficiencies? We consider one sliver of what is likely to be a complex and multifaceted answer. In the specific context of children who have been treated for congenital blindness, we and others have found some consistent deficits in post-operative recognition performance. These deficits have typically been attributed to the pre-operative deprivation the children experienced during ‘sensitive periods’ of development. However, we suggest that there may be an additional factor at work: Differences in post-operative visual experiences of newly-sighted children relative to those of typically developing infants. These differences may skew early visual learning and lead to abnormalities in recognition processes. We call these ‘butterfly effects’ given that they involve potentially large consequences of small initial perturbations in visual experience. Such hypothesized butterfly effects have relevance for three goals – accounting for observed deficits in newly-sighted children, understanding why some aspects of normal visual development unfold in the way they do, and formulating effective training regimens for computational vision systems.

About the Speaker
Prof. Pawan Sinha is a Professor of Vision and Computational Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using a combination of experimental and computational modelling techniques, research in Pawan’s laboratory focuses
on understanding how the human brain learns to recognize objects through visual experience and how objects are encoded in memory. Prof. Sinha is also the recipient of multiple awards.