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Supporting Enhanced Cognition and Stemming Cognitive Decline

March 12, 2009

KMDI at 13, Knowledge Media Design Institute Lecture Series in “Digital Media Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto”


“Technology for Cognitive Support” by Professor Ron Baecker, Department of Computer Science

Abstract: The goal of our research is to envision, prototype, design, construct, and evaluate powerful and flexible electronic cognitive aids.  These should help people, including individuals who are aging or have cognitive impairments, carry out activities of daily living; remember and function capably with names, faces, and appointments; find objects of importance, such as eyeglasses, wallets, and keys; understand and remember procedural instructions, such as taking medications; reminisce about meaningful aspects of their lives; and communicate with distant loved ones.

We shall present a seven-dimensional framework for our research and illustrate the framework by presenting projects done in collaboration with researchers and clinicians at Baycrest, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, with financial support gratefully received from NSERC, Bell Canada, and Microsoft Research.  We shall stress that the benefits of the interventions often go beyond supporting cognition to generating feelings of efficacy, supporting a sense of identity, and enhancing relationships with caregivers and family members.

Brief Bio: Ronald Baecker is Professor of Computer Science, Bell University Laboratories Chair in Human-Computer Interaction, and founder, Founding Director, Acting Director, and Chief Scientist of the Knowledge Media Design Institute at the University of Toronto.  He is an Affiliate Scientist with Baycrest and Adjunct Scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and has been a Visiting Professor, Cognitive Neuroscience, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Baecker is also Principal Investigator of the CDN$5.5M Canada-wide NSERC Network for Effective Collaboration Technologies through Advanced Research (NECTAR), has been named one of 60 Pioneers of Computer Graphics by ACM SIGGRAPH, has been elected to the CHI (Computers and Human Interaction) Academy by ACM SIGCHI, and has been awarded the Canadian Human Computer Communications Society Achievement Award and the Leadership Award of Merit from the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION).  He has published over 150 papers and articles, is author or co-author of four books, and has founded or co-founded three software companies, two of which he ran as CEO.  His B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. are from M.I.T.

“Video Games as Tools for Research in Cognition” by Professor Ian Spence, Department of Psychology

Abstract: After more than three decades of development, video games are increasingly used for purposes other than entertainment. Electronic games play a role in fields as diverse as education, cognitive training, physical exercise, and rehabilitation. Video games turn out to be a surprisingly effective way of training certain perceptual and cognitive functions. However, developing new games for meaningful purposes requires a comprehensive understanding of the critical psychological characteristics that trigger the training benefits. In this presentation, we discuss some of the experimental research that has focused on the cognitive and neuropsychological changes that game playing may induce in the brain.

Brief Bio: Ian Spence is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto. His research includes experimental work in engineering psychology, perception, attention, and cognition, with a particular focus on gender differences in spatial cognition. Current projects include the use of video games as a tool to study the acquisition of spatial skills in men and women.

Moderated by Mark Chignell

Mark Chignell is a Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto, where he has been on the faculty since 1990. Prior to that he was an Assistant Professor in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California from 1984 to 1990. He has a Ph.D in Psychology (University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 1981), and an M.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering (Ohio State, 1984). Mark is currently President of Vocalage Inc., a University of Toronto spinoff company, director of the Interactive Media Lab, and a visiting scientist at both the IBM Centre for Advanced Studies and Keio University in Japan.

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