News & Events

Computational Neurolinguistics as a probe of brain function and disfunction

by Dr Brian Murphy, Assistant Professor, Knowledge & Data Engineering (EEECS), Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland

Humanities Lecture Series
Date                  14 January 2015
Time                  4:30pm
Venue                Room AG710, PolyU
(The talk will be conducted in English.)


Cognitive sciences have sometimes taken a reductive approach, to understanding the function of the human mind, typically using carefully constructed experiments to hone in on a single aspect of cognition at a time. This may limit how easy it is to translate experimental results to real-world applications, such as understanding and treating neurological conditions.

Computational linguistics is perhaps an outlier in that it often addresses language more broadly, using large scale lexica, and authentic examples of text (corpora). Recently cognitive neuroscience has been moving in the direction of more "ecological" studies - for instance recording outside of a normal lab environment; or using more natural tasks such listening to a story or playing a computer game. Modelling the complex and varied processes involved in understanding higher cognition presents opportunities for computational linguistics.

Dr Murphy will present two studies in particular. The first decomposes the brain activity recorded while people read a chapter of a "Harry Potter" novel, on the basis of modelling of the various sub-processes involved in understanding a story (ranging all the way from word encoding, up to discourse factors and emotional engagement). The second study demonstrates how even simple experiments can be used as a probe of cognitive impairment, in patients with early forms of dementia.


Dr Brian Murphy is an Assistant Professor at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland. After gaining a degree in engineering he spent five years working in the software industry, including 3 years in Beijing. He returned to academia to complete a Masters and PhD in computational linguistics at Trinity College Dublin (2006), including a research internship at Academia Sinica under Professor Huang. He then spent five years as a lecturer and researcher in the Centre of Mind/Brain Studies, University of Trento (Italy), and two years as a scientist at the Machine Learning Department, Carnegie Mellon University (USA). Besides English, Brian has a working knowledge of German, Italian, Chinese and Spanish.

Back to top