Professor Angela Clow
University of Westminster, UK


Links between aging, cortisol secretion and cognitive function  

In addition to promoting sleep at night and wakefulness in the day the circadian pacemaker (suprachiasmatic nucleus: SCN) fine-tunes a range of functions that control how we perform across the day, including cognitive function. A crucial mediator of these effects is cortisol: changing levels across and between days synchronise and regulate processes that are not directly linked to the central pacemaker. A healthy pattern of cortisol secretion provides an important biological 'pacemaker' matched to daily needs. Secretion of cortisol is regulated by dual pathways: the SCN and the stress neuroendocrine system. Consequently chronic stress and older age are characterized by flattened circadian patterns of cortisol secretion, which are linked to poorer cognitive function. The talk will highlight how the daily dynamics of cortisol secretion lessen with increasing age and how this impacts on control of brain and cognitive function. Crucially, the talk will review evidence that patterns of cortisol secretion (in particular the cortisol awakening response) can be influenced by external cues and behaviour (e.g. light at awakening, exercise, sleep routines) making it a potential target for intervention to limit decline in cognitive function in old age.


Professor Tom Palmeri
Vanderbilt University, USA


Approaches to Model-based Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscience aims to identify neural mechanisms associated with key aspects of cognition using techniques like neurophysiology, electrophysiology, and structural and functional brain imaging. Cognitive modeling has a rich history of formalizing and testing hypotheses about cognitive mechanisms within a mathematical and computational language, making exquisite predictions about how people perceive, learn, remember, and decide. These two come together in a powerful approach called model-based cognitive neuroscience, which can both inform cognitive modeling and help to interpret neural measures. Neural measures provide data that help constrain cognitive models and adjudicate between competing cognitive models that make similar predictions about behavior. Reciprocally, cognitive models decompose complex behavior into representations and processes and these model states can be used to explain the modulation of brain states under different experimental conditions. This talk provides an introduction to model-based cognition neuroscience, highlighting various approaches to this kind of work, with a specific focus on understanding perceptual decision making. 


Professor Charles Spence
University of Oxford


Gastrophysics: Pleasure and pain at the dining table (A special pre-dinner keynote)

Professor Charles Spence is a world-famous experimental psychologist with a specialization in neuroscience-inspired multisensory design. He has worked with many of the world’s largest companies across the globe since establishing the Crossmodal Research Laboratory (CRL) at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University in 1997. Prof. Spence has published over 750 articles and edited or authored, 10 academic volumes including, in 2014, the prize-winning “The perfect meal”, and “Gastrophysics” (2017). Much of Prof. Spence’s work focuses on the design of enhanced multisensory food and drink experiences, through collaborations with chefs, baristas, mixologists, perfumiers, and the food and beverage, and flavour and fragrance industries. Prof. Spence has also worked extensively on the topic of multisensory contributions to pain perception.

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