Cognitive and Cognitive Neuroscience
The study of cognition has undergone explosive growth during the past decades with exciting developments in psychology, neuroscience, and related fields, aided by new techniques and theoretical frameworks for studying the mind and brain. The faculty in the Cognitive and Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN) combine expertise in cognition and perception with a broad arsenal of methods including experimental, developmental, computational, and biological approaches. The area group provides a unique and stimulating graduate school experience for students interested in an interdisciplinary approach to cognition and perception.
We place strong emphasis on the powerful effects of experience in the development of human intellect. We also strive to think about and study cognitive science with an especially broad perspective. Rather than restrict our research programs to a small box which risks missing the broader context of cognition and behavior, we all strive to always keep the bigger picture in mind. Our graduate students are encouraged to extend their thinking beyond the myopic or the modular. Our commitment to broad thinking is part of what draws us together, to find excitement in the efforts of others. Although the questions our research addresses are varied, the answers often are found in common principles of brains and behavior.
Our methods include techniques such as eye-tracking in Tim Rogers’s, Gary Lupyan’s, and Maryellen MacDonald’s laboratories, 3D motion in Bas Rokers’s laboratory, the neural basis of executive function and attention in Yuri Saalmann’s laboratory, and transfer of learning in Shawn Green’s laboratory. Jenny Saffran, Kristin Shuts, and Vanessa Simmering employ a variety of methods to study the behavior of infants and children. Brad Postle and Gary Lupyan use brain stimulation methods such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), while Yuri Saalmann records from human and non-human animal brains. We additionally use neuroimaging (fMRI, EEG, ERP) techniques, several of us use sophisticated computer simulations of cognitive and perceptual processes, and innovative crowdsourcing techniques via online platforms.
Our breadth in methodologies is paralleled by breadth across several disciplines of cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience: Areas of exceptional strength in cognition include language development, neural representation of language and memory, gesture, comprehension, problem solving, statistical learning, categorization and semantic knowledge, transfer of learned skills, and computational modeling, especially in the connectionist tradition.
We have fully state of the art laboratory facilities, enhanced by unique opportunities for training in neuroimaging at the Waisman Center.
The training program
As mentors, we strive to train our students to become top experimental psychologists. Some programs have students do rotations around multiple laboratories during their first year. Other programs may be very strict about students coming to work with one, and only one, faculty member during their years of study. Here, we strike a balance between these two approaches. Every student enters the program with a primary advisor and conducts an important piece of original research during their very first year in Madison. We use this First Year Project as your launching pad to research excellence. During the Fall of your second year, you will share your work with all of the faculty and students in the department. When all goes as well as possible, your first year project can also be your first Wisconsin research publication.
Conducting cutting-edge cognitive science requires mastering the methods that best answer the question. At Wisconsin, you will be encouraged to let your questions define your methods, and we will encourage you to exploit the multiple talents of all of us to reveal the answers to your questions.
Almost all of the CCN faculty collaborate with one another. Many of these collaborations are inspired by the interests of our students, and many students have two mentors. We encourage you to spread your wings and exploit the multiple strengths that we have to offer.