Yanchao Bi - From perception and language to knowledge representation in the human brain

Event Details:

Thursday, February 29, 2024
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12:00pm to 1:00pm PST
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Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
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Join the speaker for coffee, cookies, and conversation before the talk, starting at 11:45am.

From perception and language to knowledge representation in the human brain


Human brain stores tremendous amount of knowledge about this world, which is the foundation of object recognition, language, thought, and reasoning. What’s the neural codes of such semantic knowledge? Is the knowledge “roses are red” simply the memory trace of perceiving the color of roses, stored in the brain circuits within color-sensitive neural systems? What about knowledge that is not directly perceived by senses, such as “freedom” or “rationality”? I will present a set of cognitive and neuroimaging studies from my lab that addresses this issue, including object color (and other semantic) knowledge in several populations (congenitally blind humans, color blind humans, humans with early language experience deprivation, and typically developed macaques). The findings point to the existence of two different types of knowledge coding in different regions of the human brain – one conservative, based on sensory experiences, and one based on language-derived machinery that support fully nonsensory information. Their interactions and potential implications will be discussed.

Yanchao Bi, Ph.D.

Beijing Normal University


Yanchao Bi is a ChangJiang professor in IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, at Beijing Normal University. She received her PhD from the Department of Psychology, Harvard University in 2006. Her work focuses on the functional and neural architecture associated with semantic memory and language, tackling how the human brain represents and understands the meanings of words, objects and actions, and how such knowledge is acquired and interacts with sensory and language experiences. She mainly studies human models, including typically developed individuals and special populations such as congenitally blind, deaf, or patients with brain damage, using cognitive, neuropsychological, neuroimaging and computational methods. She also works with collaborators to study these questions from the comparative (nonhuman primates) and developmental (human infants) perspectives. 

She has won various awards, scholarships or recognitions such as “The National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars”, “The National Science Fund for Excellent Young Scholars”, “New Century Excellent Talents in University”, Sackler scholar of psychophysiology, Fulbright scholar, and “rising star” in the Observer by the American Psychological Association. 

She is currently serving as a Senior Editor at eLife and Neurobiology of Language, and on the editorial boards of Cognition, Cognitive Neuropsychology.

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Hosted by - Aaron D. Gitler, Ph.D. (Gitler Lab)


The Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute seminar series brings together the Stanford neuroscience community to discuss cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary brain research, from biochemistry to behavior and beyond.

Topics include new discoveries in fundamental neurobiology; advances in human and translational neuroscience; insights from computational and theoretical neuroscience; and the development of novel research technologies and neuro-engineering breakthroughs.

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held Thursdays at 12:00 noon PT.

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