Roses are red, Violets are blue. How do we know that?
Human brain stores tremendous amount of knowledge about this world, which is the foundation of language, thought, and reasoning. What’s the neural codes of knowledge representation? Is the knowledge “roses are red” simply the memory trace of perceiving the color of roses, stored in the brain circuits within color-sensitive neurons, as John Locke assumed? What about knowledge that is not directly perceived by senses, such as “freedom” or “rationality”?
Our lab studies these questions -- the functional and neural architecture associated with knowledge representation, semantic memory, and its relationship with the perceptual, action, and language systems – using a combination of experimental and computational approaches. We carry out cognitive, neuropsychological and multimodal brain imaging (functional MRI, diffusion imaging, structural imaging) experiments in healthy, typically developed individuals, and various special populations including patients with brain-damage, individuals with sensory deprivation (congenitally blind or deaf), to study the ways in which the brain represents and accesses knowledge about the meaning of words, objects and actions.
By using the lesion model we can test the functionality of various specific brain regions/networks (If we cut it out what happens to a person’s knowledge stores?); By studying the sensory deprivation populations we can test the relationship between sensory signals and knowledge formation (Is John Locke right?); By comparing the biological brain with various types of artificial brains we can test the computation goal and architecture of our neural systems (Which AI models better capture our neural response patterns?).
Our publication page contains some of our current answers to these questions.
Our lab is based at IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, at Beijing Normal University. Our research is generously supported by National Science Foundation of China, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, and Beijing Science Foundation.
We are grateful to all the research participants that help us unravel the mystery of the brain.