Research Focus Cognitive Scienes
Photo: AVZ/Frank Poser/Karin Pelte

Research Focus Cognitive Sciences

Models of Thinking

The research focus Cognitive Sciences

We all know how to tell our friends what we think. We also know how to listen to them and to remember what they thought and said. We know that we form intentions after those conversations and that we translate them into specific motor behavior and actions.

Research Focus Cognitive Sciences at the University of Potsdam, various disciplines work together to develop theoretical and mathematical models of human thinking, language, and motion sequences. The Research Focus Cognitive Sciences constitutes a central topic at the University of Potsdam and is widely recognized as one of the leading cognitive science institutes in Germany. Psychologists work together with mathematicians, linguists with computer scientists, and sport/movement scientists with cognitive scientists. They do this using a wide array of experimental techniques, such as EEG, TMS, NIRS, eye tracking, motion capture, and gait analysis.

Strong conncections on the research level also exist to the Faculty of Human Sciences, especially to the intra-faculty unit Cognitive Sciences.

Prominent examples for these intensive co-operations are the recently established collaborative research centers (CRC) „Limits of Variability in Language: Cognitive, Grammatical, and Social Aspects“ and „Data assimilation: the seamless integration of data and models“. In the former CRC, German scientists, linguists and psychologists investigate and characterise variability in language as the range of different possible linguistic behaviours that are available to a language user, a language community, or in specific languages at any linguistic level. In the latter CRC on „Data assimilation“ researchers work at the interface of mathematics, physics, computer science, and psychology to integrate large data sets into complex computer models. They aim for a deeper understanding of underlying processes in biology, medicine, earth sciences as well as in the cognitive and neurosciences.

To name just a few further concrete topics, the Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism  examines how the human mind and brain copes with more than one language by studying language processing in a range of different bilingual and multilingual children and adults.
Furthermore, several linguistic projects at the Centre for Language, Variation and Migration  investigate multilingual communities in urban Germany. They discover complex rules in new urban dialects like Kiezdeutsch and new developments in the Turkish spoken and written in Germany. They combine structural and corpus linguistic analyses with methods of psychology and sociology.
Patholinguists, as a further example, develop improved methods that increase the efficiency of treatments for children with speech impediments and for stroke patients with impaired language abilities. In order to understand language disorders better, several researchers investigate typical language processing from early childhood to advanced adulthood with different neuroscientific and neuropsychological methods.
In the recently established Research Unit ‘crossing the borders’, linguists and psychologists work together to investigate human development during the first five years of life. In an interdisciplinary approach, the Research Unit aims at discovering the cognitive und neuronal mechanisms underlying early development of language and/or social cognition, with special emphasis on interactions between development in different domains.
Young researchers also study intrapersonal developmental risk factors  in childhood and adolescence in a DFG funded graduate program. They examine the developmental trajectory of 3.500 children and adolescents from five to seventeen years of age from a long-term perspective. Their aim is to discover factors that lead to difficulties in learning, to aggressive behavior or to eating disorders. Cognitive psychologists and movement scientists work together in studying how mind and body interact. For example, they measure the acquisition of complex motor sequences and how such expertise then influences intellectual skills. Movement sciences also investigate the interplay between sport and mental health. Finally, the focus is also on the dialog between humans and machines: the rules that humans use to formulate their thoughts are translated into programs by computer linguists. They are facing what is possibly the most difficult challenge for computer scientists: making machines speak our language.

>> In the Cognitive Sciences at the University of Potsdam, we focus on nothing less than the basis of human communication and other complex mental and motor abilities. <<

Prof. Martin Fischer, Ph.D.
Director of the Research Focus Cognitive Sciences

development of the research focus