Cognition in Context

CO2 | COGNITION IN CONTEXT

CO2 investigate the cognitive mechanisms and neural underpinnings of voice and speech perception, long-­term memory, literacy acquisition and reading development.

CO2 includes 16 PhD researchers, 9 PhD students, and 4 international postdoc fellows. A cognitive psychology and neuroscience framework is adopted, with a special focus on memory and learning, voice/speech perception, cultural acquisitions and their cognitive impact, social cognition and decision making. An interdisciplinary approach is used to study neurocognitive adaptation and plasticity in learning and changing contexts with multiple methods: behavioral paradigms (e.g. eye­movement recordings), neuroimaging techniques (fMRI, EEG) and neuropsychological studies (dyslexia, autism, dementia, schizophrenia).

We collaborate with leading research centers (e.g. HarvardU, HeidelbergU, MPI­Nijmegen, UCL,UK) and networks (e.g. ESCON, Cognitive Science of Culture network). Through APPE, we contribute towards excellence in the national cognitive psychology arena. We offer consultancy to renowned agencies (e.g. European Commission, Fulbright, Israel Science Foundation) and editorial service in leading journals. CO2 is actively involved in advanced training: the Heidelberg­Lisbon­Exchange Project; the TquanT/Erasmus+; the Brain­Mind College, including the Cognitive Science MSc/PhD Program, unique in Portugal; and 3 FCT­funded PhD Programs. Our graduates are co­advised by international collaborators, expanding our network.

CO2 research informs public policies (e.g. prevention of over­indebtedness; educational practices in literacy instruction), assists clinical programs and screening of cognitive disorders (reading instruction in dyslexia; voice perception in schizophrenia) and increases crosstalk between academia and stakeholders (e.g. risk management). Our achievements are delivered to society in outreach events.

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Programs

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Team

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Projects

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Outputs

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Collaborations

Research Programs

Social Cognition and Learning

Our research interests lie at the intersection between Cognitive Psychology and Social Psychology, trying to understand how our cognitive structures interact with different contexts and learning. We investigate the adaptive nature of memory in responding to the requirements and contexts of recovery. We explore the adaptation of coding and retrieval strategies to test requirements, looking for conditions where conceptual knowledge can be used to respond to episodic memory tasks, and showing how over many cycles of study and testing we have learned to neglect irrelevant aspects of information to study. We seek to investigate the dynamic relationship between the mechanisms that trigger the recall or recognition of information that has not been experienced and those that we use to correct these errors. We also seek to characterize the development of these mechanisms throughout life, as well as the impact of different coding and retrieval contexts. We also investigate the cognitive mechanisms underlying the spontaneous inferences about another person, how people integrate different types of information in their impressions about others, and the situations in which they rely on context to correct their first impressions. In order to achieve a more global characterization of this phenomenon, our research is done with adults and children. Finally, in another line of research we explore the mechanisms that make social stereotypes, contrary to the commonly accepted view, sometimes exhibit a considerable level of flexibility. Our research has shown that factors such as contextual relevance or difficulty in monitoring our beliefs play a key role in the malleability of social stereotypes. We address these issues using behavioral and computational methods, and trying to build day-to-day phenomena in our cognitive architecture.

Memory and Language

Our team investigates the processes of memory and language and the interaction between these cognitive systems.

We investigate the emergence of the reading circuitry and its impact on the evolutionary older systems of oral language and object recognition. In visual recognition, we originally showed that learning to read leads to the emergence of perceptual mechanisms tuned to the properties of the orthographic code (e.g., analytic letter processing), with consequences in visual nonlinguistic processing (e.g., the ability to discriminate mirror images as d-b; holistic processing of faces). We also investigate the visual object recognition system considering potential links with those systems involved in learning to read and write. In oral language, we evaluate whether and how orthographic knowledge brought about by reading acquisition strengthens the phonological representations of words, thereby assisting in speech perception and production.

Our research is also intended to clarify the cognitive mechanisms underlying the neurobiological reading markers (such as the N170 electrophysiological component) and what mechanisms promote the emergence of a highly specialized neural system devoted to letters and visual words. Also in this domain, we investigate the contribution of visual-to-motor integration (through seeing and handwriting of letters) in the emergence of the neural system for letters and its impact on mirror-image discrimination.

In another line of research, we seek to investigate the cognitive and neural underpinnings of episodic and semantic memory. We have examined the role of the prefrontal cortex in the deliberate retrieval of episodic information and how the late maturation (in adolescence) and early atrophy of this region (in older adults) affect the recovery of past events. In the semantic memory domain,we investigate the specific functions of the anterior temporal lobe and inferior parietal lobe in integrating multiple features into single coherent concepts and the role of the prefrontal cortex in exerting control over retrieved semantic representations.

Bridging the language and memory domains, we have investigated the two facets of learning new words: the language facet, related to the integration and involvement of the new words in lexical dynamics, and the memory facet, related to the memory trace that has been created and the semantic content of the words. We are interested in evaluating the role of the hippocampus and how these two facets interact along healthy and pathological ageing.

Decision in Context

How do we make decisions, inferences and judgments in our daily life?
In what circumstances can we trust our intuitions and when should we second guess them and engage in more deliberative, analytical processes (how intuition and deliberation interact).
How do we infer what other people think and feel, and what are the consequences of those inferences for our own judgment and decisions?
What is the role of inaccurate memory representations of the reasoning problems we have to solve? Can bias stem from correct appraisal of faulty problem representations?
How our motives and goals can influence psychological processes underlying, our memory, judgment and reasoning?
How the feedback provided by different decision context influences the way human judgment and decision making unfolds over time?
The decision in context lab approaches the abovementioned issues from a sócio-cognitive perspective where basic and higher order psychological processes (sometimes studied in cognitive sciences in a relative social vacuum) are approached in more complex and rich interpersonal and social contexts.

Our main goal is to study how cognitive and meta-cognitive processes of reasoning, judgment and decision making unfold in different social and interpersonal contexts. Specifically, we aim at:

  • Better understanding in what circumstances motives and motivated reasoning improves our bias judgment and decision making;
  • Explore the extent with which performance in heuristics-and-biases problems may depend not only on faulty reasoning but also on the application of sound reasoning to inaccurate representations of the reasoning problems.
  • Developing a social metacognitive approach of reasoning: how people infer what other people think and feel, and what are the consequences of those inferences.
  • Go beyond one-shot demonstrations of accurate or inaccurate judgment and explore how reasoning and decision behavior unfolds over time and different types of social feedback.

Research on dual-process theories of reasoning and decision-making articulating contributes from social psychology, social cognition and cognitive psychology. Specific thematic lines are linked to the aforementioned goals and include:

  • Motivated reasoning as a way to reduce reasoning bias and improve judgment accuracy;
  • The role of superficial “good enough” memory representations as a source of bias and decision errors
  • Metacognition and social metacognition social: using the perceived conflict between intuitive and reason-based outputs to infer about others’ feelings, decisions and reasoning.
  • Exploring human judgment as an ongoing and interactive process that people use to cope with their social world

Voice, Affect and Speech

How do we differentiate and recognize familiar and unfamiliar voices? How do we extract meaning from emotional cues conveyed by somebody’s voice? How do we assign meaning to speech stimuli and how do we differentiate between emotionally salient and not salient speech? Our interest is to understand how the brain perceives and recognizes the identity, affective and semantic aspects of the human voice. We use behavioral, neurophysiological and neuroimaging tools to probe these questions, relying on the combination of skills and knowledge from psychologists, biomedical engineers, computational linguists, and medical doctors.

Three research lines, supported by FCT and BIAL funding, exemplify the work carried in this Lab:

  • VAS and hallucinations:

There is a substantial body of evidence showing that a failure to distinguish between internally and externally generated sensory signals (e.g., my voice vs. somebody else’s voice)underlies the experience of auditory hallucinations. We use brain imaging techniques (ERP, EEG oscillations, fMRI) to investigate the impact of salience on auditory sensory prediction and its relationship with hallucination predisposition.

  • The effects of musical training on VAS perception:

The musician’s brain is considered a model of experience-driven neuroplasticity. Some studies indicate that this expertise might translate into enhanced language and speech perception abilities, such as vocal emotional perception. In this research line, we investigate whether musical training enhances the extraction of regularities from synthesized emotional speech and musical samples, using EEG and fMRI.

  • VAS across the development:

Our goal is to examine changes in vocal emotional perception and recognition from childhood to old adulthood. Our main interest is to understand how the detection of salience from voice cues relates to brain changes during development.

Research Team

• Tânia Fernandes •

• Tânia Fernandes •

Personal presentation

I am Assistant Professor at Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal, and the coordinator of the Research Group Cognition in Context (CO2). I have been working in the field of Cognitive Psychology at the interface of Cognitive Neurosciences and Neuropsychology. My major scientific interest is on the cognitive expression of how cultural experiences can modulate the human brain and mind in such powerful and specific ways. My scientific work has been conducted in two lines of research: in spoken and visual word recognition and on the impact of literacy acquisition (learning to read and write) in independent cognitive systems (visual and language processes).

Interests

Spoken word recognition; lexicalization processes and ageing effects in lexical Dynamics; Visual word recognition; developmental dyslexia and orthographic processing; Visual object recognition; orientation processing and mirror-image discrimination.

Articles

Fernandes, T., & Leite, I. (2017). Mirrors are hard to break: A critical review and behavioral evidence on mirror-image processing in developmental dyslexia. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 159, 66-82. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2017.02.003

Fernandes, T., Leite, I., & Kolinsky, R. (2016). Into the looking glass: Literacy acquisition and mirror invariance in preschool and first-grade children. Child Development, 87(6), 2008 – 2025. doi:10.1111/cdev.12550

Fernandes, T., Vale, A. P., Martins, B., Morais, J., & Kolinsky, R. (2014). The deficit of letter processing in developmental dyslexia: combining evidence from dyslexics, typical readers and illiterate adults. Developmental Science, 17, 125-141. doi:10.1111/desc.12102 Nys,

J., Ventura, P., Fernandes, T., Querido, L., Leybaert, J., & Content, A. (2013). Does math education modify the approximate number system? A comparison of schooled and unschooled adults. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 2(1), 13-22. doi:10.1016/j.tine.2013.01.001

Kolinsky, R., Verhaeghe, A., Fernandes, T., Mengarda, E. J., Grimm-Cabral, L., & Morais, J. (2011). Enantiomorphy through the looking glass: literacy effects on mirror-image discrimination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 140, 210-238. doi:10.1037/A0022168

Projects

VOrtEx: Visual word recognition and Orthographic processing: Experiments and contributions from cognitive psychology, neurosciences, and computational modeling. (FCT-POR Lisboa 2020 Ref. 28184)

Keywords

Cognitive Experimental Psychology
Visual word recognition
Reading development in typical and dyslexic readers
Impact of literacy acquisition on visual object recognition

Activity highlights

Founding member of the Society for Cognitive Science of Culture.
Scientific Expert, ECO-SOC Panel, H2020-MSCA-IF-MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE INDIVIDUAL FELLOWSHIPS.
Scientific Advisor, Programme LER – Leitura e Escrita: Recursos, Plano Nacional da Leitura (PNL/ Ministério da Educação) & EDULOG (Fundação Belmiro de Azevedo).

Research Team Coordinator

• Ana Luísa Raposo •

• Ana Luísa Raposo •

Personal presentation

I am interested in the cognitive and neural bases of human memory. My research combines behavioural and neuroimaging (fMRI) methods to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that support retrieval of past experiences and expression of knowledge.

Interests

My work is focused on three main research lines:

  1. How is our semantic system functionally organized and neurologically implemented. I have investigated how people process concepts, features and categories, their neural representation in healthy adults and the nature of semantic deficits in patients with brain lesion.
  2. How we access, select and integrate the meaning of words into context. In a set of fMRI and EEG studies, using semantic ambiguity, semantic illusions and semantic predictability, I explore how the sentential context modulates the attribution of meaning and the underlying neural processes.
  3. How people dynamically employ prior semantic knowledge in new episodic learning. I examine the nature of semantic operations that support episodic memory and which encoding and retrieval processes benefit from semantics.

Articles

Raposo, A., Frade, S., Alves, M. & Marques, J.F. (2018). The neural bases of price estimation: effects of size and precision of the estimate. Brain and Cognition, 125, 157-164. DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2018.07.005

Raposo, A., Frade, S. & Alves, M. (2016). Framing memories: how the retrieval query format shapes the neural bases of remembering. Neuropsychologia, 89, 309-319. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.06.036

Santi, A., Raposo, A., Frade, S. & Marques, J.F. (2016). Concept typicality responses in the semantic memory network. Neuropsychologia, 93, 167-175. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.10.012

Raposo, A. & Marques, J.F. (2013). The contribution of fronto-parietal regions to sentence comprehension: insights from the Moses illusion. NeuroImage, 83, 431-437. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.06.052

Raposo, A., Mendes, M. & Marques, J.F. (2012). The hierarchical organization of semantic memory: executive function in the processing of superordinate concepts. NeuroImage, 59, 1870-1878. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.08.072

Projects

In search of lost memory: experimental evidences and computational models of visual memory in healthy and neuro-degenerate ageing (FCT-POR Lisboa 2020Ref. 030958)
Can we learn from errors? (FCTPTDC/PSI-ESP/28414/2017)

Keywords 

Semantic memory
Episodic memory
Pre-frontal cortex
fMRI

Activity highlights

Executive Board of the Mind-Brain College of Universidade de Lisboa.
Member of the Scientific Committee of the Doctoral Program in Integrated Neurosciences of Universidade de Lisboa (NeurULisboa), funded by FCT PD/00156/2013.
Member of FCT Evaluation Panel for PhD and Postdoctoral Grants 2016-2017.

• Ana P. Pinheiro •

• Ana P. Pinheiro •

Personal presentation

My research aims to enhance our understanding of how the brain perceives and recognizes the identity, affective and semantic aspects of the human voice. Some of the questions underlying current research projects include: a) How do we differentiate and recognize familiar and unfamiliar voices? b) How do we modulate our own voice to convey emotions? c) How do we assign meaning to speech stimuli and how do we differentiate between emotionally salient and not salient speech? Behavioral, neurophysiological and neuroimaging tools are used to probe these questions. Ultimately, these studies aim to bring us closer to understanding why some people hear voices when there is nobody speaking such as in psychotic disorders.

Interests

Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience: Social communication; Language and speech perception; Voice processing; Predictive coding in auditory processing; Psychosis and auditory hallucinations; Learning and neuroplasticity.

Articles

Pinheiro, A. P., Barros, C., Vasconcelos, M., Obermeier, C., & Kotz, S. A. (2017). Is laughter a better vocal change detector than a growl? Cortex, 92, 233-248. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2017.03.018

Pinheiro, A. P., Barros, C., & Pedrosa, J. (2016). Salience in a social landscape: electrophysiological effects of task-irrelevant and infrequent vocal change. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 11(1), 127-139. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsv103

Pinheiro, A. P., del Re, E., Mezin, J., Rauber, A., Nestor, P. G., McCarley, R. W., Gonçalves, O. F., & Niznikiewicz, M. (2013). Sensory-based and higher-order operations contribute to abnormal emotional prosody processing in schizophrenia: an electrophysiological investigation. Psychological Medicine, 43(3), 603-618. doi: 10.1017/S003329171200133X

Pinheiro, A. P., del Re, E., Nestor, P., McCarley, R. W., Gonçalves, O. F., & Niznikiewicz, M. (2013). Interactions between mood and the structure of semantic memory: Event-related potentials evidence. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 8(5), 579-594. doi: 10.1093/scan/nss035

Pinheiro, A. P., Rezaii, N., Rauber, A., Nestor, P. G., Spencer, K. M., & Niznikiewicz, M. (2017). Emotional self-other voice processing in schizophrenia and its relationship with hallucinations: ERP evidence. Psychophysiology, 54(9), 1252-1265. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12880

Projects

“When prediction errs: Examining the brain dynamics of altered saliency in self-voice perception” (238/16 – BIAL)
“I predict, therefore I do not hallucinate: a longitudinal study testing the neurophysiological underpinnings of auditory verbal hallucinations” (PTDC/MHC-PCN/0101/2014 – FCT])

Keywords

Brain; cognition; voice; psychosis.

Activity highlights

Expert Evaluator – Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships, ERC Advanced Grants, Leading Fellows Programme (The Netherlands); Swiss National Science Foundation; Austrian Science Fund (Hertha Firnberg-Position).