The concepts of Dynamical Systems Theory have impacted the way psychologists, cognitive scientists, and neuroscientists think about sensori-motor behavior and embodied cognition. These concepts have had a particularly strong impact in developmental science, changing the way questions are asked, experiments are designed, and theoretical models are formulated.
A critical step for Dynamical Systems thinking has been the move from its initial setting in motor behavior into cognitive function. This move was prefaced by extensive discussion within Cognitive Science about whether Dynamical Systems accounts must embrace the concept of representation. Dynamic Field Theory (DFT) provides an answer to this question, offering a framework for thinking about representation-in-the-moment that is firmly grounded in both Dynamical Systems thinking and neurophysiology.
Dynamic Neural Fields are formalizations of how neural populations represent the continuous dimensions that characterize perceptual features, movements, and cognitive decisions. Neural fields evolve dynamically under the influence of sensory inputs as well as strong neural interaction, generating elementary forms of cognition through dynamical instabilities. The concepts of DFT establish links between brain and behavior, helping to define experimental paradigms in which behavioral signatures of specific neural mechanisms can be observed. These paradigms can be modelled with Dynamic Neural Fields, deriving testable predictions and providing quantitative accounts of behavior.
Since 1993 when the first conference proceedings on DFT appeared, this theoretical framework has been applied to a host of issues ranging from neural implementation and direct estimation of neural fields via single-unit neurophysiology and ERPs, to the planning of eye and arm movements, to the demonstration of embodiment using autonomous robots, to the development and dynamics of visuo-spatial cognition, and, more recently, to the development and cognitive dynamics involved in higher-level operations such as word learning and executive function.
This home page was established in 2008 to serve as a focal point for sharing the concepts of DFT. Here you can find DFT-related publications, information about different events such as the DFT Summer School and the DFT Tutorial, as well as interactive Matlab simulators to enable scholars to explore the concepts of DFT first-hand. Enjoy!
|John P. Spencer, Ph.D.
Coordinator of the Developmental
Science Training Area
Department of Psychology
11 Seashore Hall E
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242
[brief bio] [web page]
|Prof. Dr. Gregor Schöner
Institut für Neuroinformatik
Gebäude ND, Raum 04/583
[brief bio] [web page]