Blair C. Armstrong


 Staff Scientist, Marie Curie Programme 2013-2016
 Group Leader, Computational Cognitive Neuroscience
 Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language (BCBL)


 Contact:

 E-mail:
 blair.c.armstrong@gmail.com  or  b.armstrong@bcbl.eu

 Telephone:
 +34 943 309 300 Extension 202
   
 Address:
 Basque Center on Cognition Brain and Language
 Paseo Mikeletegi 69, 2nd Floor
 San Sebastian, Spain, 20009



Research Interests - Education - Publications - Published Software - Other Tools -
Teaching - Service - Advising - In the News


Research Interests


My primary research interests relate to the cognitive and neural representations, processes, and learning mechanisms underlying word comprehension and semantic memory.  In particular, much of this work concerns developing theories of how ambiguous words are comprehended, the source of the similarities and differences between written and spoken word comprehension, and the emergence of cross-linguistic differences in lexical processing.  Complementing this work, I pursue research into how decision and response systems engage the word comprehension system in different tasks.  My work focuses on developing explicit mechanistic accounts of these cognitive systems.  This work is informed by tightly coordinated computational modeling using biologically-plausible connectionist networks and by empirical investigations using a range of techniques.  I am also interested in how computational algorithms can be leveraged to improve various aspects of experimental methodologies, such as stimulus selection and data analysis.



CV Highlights


Education

2012 PhD, Psychology, Psychology Department, Carnegie Mellon University

Dissertation: The Temporal Dynamics of Word Comprehension and Response Selection: Computational and Behavioral Studies

Advisor: Dr. David Plaut   
Committee: Dr. Marlene Behrmann, Dr. Brian MacWhinney, Dr. Natasha Tokowicz

2012 Graduate Training Certificate, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), Carnegie Mellon University

2010 MS, Psychology, Psychology Department, Carnegie Mellon University

Advisor: Dr. David Plaut
Committee: Dr. Marlene Behrmann, Dr. Brian MacWhinney

2007 MA, Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto

Dissertation: Comprehending Ambiguous Words: Computational and Empirical Investigations

Advisor: Dr. David Plaut
Co-advisor: Dr. Steve Joordens

2006 HBSc, Conferred with High Distinction, Psychology Specialist Program, University of Toronto Scarborough

Psychology Honours Thesis:   
Title: Accounting for Category-specific Semantic Deficits: A Computational Implementation of Conceptual Topography Theory
Advisor:  Dr. George Cree

Neuroscience Honours Thesis:
Title: The Golden Ratio: A Search for the Mathematical and Neural Basis of Beauty
Advisors: Dr. Gerald Cupchik and Dr. Ted Petit


Publications



In Press or Published Peer-reviewed Articles:

Armstrong, B. C.,
Zugarramurdi, C., Alvaro, C., Valle Lisboa, J., & Plaut, D. C. (accepted).  Relative meaning frequencies for 578 homonyms in two Spanish dialects: A cross-linguistic extension of the English eDom normsBehavior Research Methods.  43 pages. 

Armstrong, B. C.
, Ruiz-Blondet, M., Khalifian, N., Jin, Zanpeng, J., Kurtz, K. J., Laszlo, S. (2015). Brainprint: Assessing the uniqueness, collectability, and permanence of a novel method for ERP biometrics.  Neurocomputing, 166, 59-66.   http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neucom.2015.04.025

Frost, R., Armstrong, B. C., Seigelman, N., Christiansen, M. H.  (2015).  Domain generality versus modality specificity: The paradox of statistical learning.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(3), 117-125. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2014.12.010.  Invited peer-reviewed contribution. 

Lerner, I., Armstrong, B. C., & Frost, R.  (2014).  What can we learn from learning models about sensitivity to letter-order in visual word recognition?  Journal of Memory and Language, 77, 40-58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2014.09.002

Laszlo, S., & Armstrong, B. C. (2014).  Applying the dynamics of post-synaptic potentials to individual units in simulation of temporally extended ERP reading data.  Brain & Language, 132, 22-27. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandl.2014.03.002  

Carreiras, M., Armstrong, B. C., Perea, M., & Frost, R. (2014).  The What, When, Where, and How of Visual Word Recognition.   Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(2), 90-98.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2013.11.005  Invited peer-reviewed contribution.  

Armstrong, B.C., Tokowicz, N., & Plaut, D.C. (2012).  eDom: Norming software and relative meaning frequency norms for 544 homonyms.  Behavioral Research Methods, 44(4), 1015-1027.

Armstrong, B.C., Watson, C.E., & Plaut, D.C. (2012).  SOS! An algorithm and software for the Stochastic Optimization of Stimuli.  Behavior Research Methods, 44(3),  675-705.

Armstrong, B.C., LeBoutillier, J.C., & Petit, T.L. (2012).  Ultrastructural synaptic changes associated with Neurofibromatosis Type 1: Quantitative analysis of hippocampal region CA1 in a Nf1+/- mouse model. Synapse, 66(3), 246-255.

Connor, S., Williams P. T., Armstrong, B., Petit, T. L., Ivanco, T. L., Weeks, A. C. (2006). Long-term potentiation is associated with changes in synaptic ultrastructure in the rat neocortex. Synapse, 59(6), 378-382.



Peer-reviewed Conference Papers (* = presenter):

Ruiz-Blondet, M.*, Khalifian, N., Armstrong, B. C., Jin, Zanpeng, J., Kurtz, K. J., Laszlo, S. (2014). Brainprint: Identifying unique features of neural activity with machine learning.   Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 827-832). Mahwah, NH: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.  

Armstrong, B. C.*, & Plaut, D. C. (2013).  Simulating overall and trial-by-trial effects in response selection with a biologically-plausible connectionist network.  In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 139-144). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. 

Laszlo, S., & Armstrong, B. C.* (2013).  Applying the dynamics of post-synaptic potentials to individual units in simulation of temporally extended ERP reading data.  In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2826-2831).  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. 

Armstrong, B. C.* & Plaut, D. C. (2011). Inducing homonymy effects via stimulus quality and (not) nonword difficulty: Implications for models of semantic ambiguity and word recognition. In L. Carlson, C. Holscher, & T. Shipley (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2223-2228).  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. 

Armstrong, B. C.*, Joordens, S., & Plaut, D. C. (2009). Yoked criteria shifts in decision system adaptation: Computational and behavioral investigations.  In N.A. Taatgen & H. van Rijn (Eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2130-2135).  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. 

MacInnes, W. J.*, Armstrong, B. C., Pare, D., Cree, G. S., & Joordens, S. (2009). Everyone’s a critic: Memory models and uses for an artificial Turing judge.   In B. Goertzel, M. Hutter, & P. Hitzler (Eds.) Proceedings of the Second Conference on Artificial General Intelligence (pp. 132-137).  Paris, France: Atlantic Press.   Second runner up for Kurzweil Best Artificial General Intelligence Paper at AGI 2009. 

Armstrong, B. C.*
, & Plaut, D. C. (2008).  Settling dynamics in distributed networks explain task differences in semantic ambiguity effects: Computational and behavioral evidence.  In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.) Proceedings of the 30th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 273-278).  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. 



Book Chapters:

Cree, G. S., & Armstrong, B. (2012). Computational models of semantic memory.  In Spivey, M., McRae, K. & Joanisse, M. (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Psycholinguistics (pp. 259-282).  New York: Cambridge University Press.

Watson, C. E., Armstrong, B. C., & Plaut, D. C. (2012). Connectionist modeling of neuropsychological deficits in semantics, language, and reading.  In M. Faust (Ed.), The Handbook of the Neuropsychology of Language (pp. 103-124). New York: Wiley-Blackwell. 


Doctoral Dissertation:

Armstrong, B. C. (2012).  The Temporal Dynamics of Word Comprehension and Response Selection: Computational and Behavioral Studies.  Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Psychology Department, Carnegie Mellon University.  



Software


SOS:
  • A software package for the Stochastic Optimization of Stimuli (developed with Christine Watson and David Plaut)
  • Related article published in Behavior Research Methods
  • Software and additional information available online at http://sos.cnbc.cmu.edu

eDom
  • An automated tool for collecting Relative Meaning Frequency ratings for homonyms (i.e., electronic Dominance ratings) based on dictionary (and participant-supplemented) definitions (developed with Natasha Tokowicz and David Plaut)
  • Related articles and norms for American English and for two dialects of Spanish published in Behavior Research Methods
  • Software and norms available online at http://edom.cnbc.cmu.edu or www.bcbl.eu/databases/edom




Teaching


2012-2015    Instructor for Quantitative Methods, Section III: Regression [co-ordinated with Martijn Baart                        (Section I: Basic Statistical Concepts) and Arthur Samuel (Section II: Analysis of Variance)]



Service


Co-Organizer & Scientific Committee Member, Interdisciplinary Advances in Statistical Learning Conference
Program Committee Member, 2015 Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society


Ad hoc reviewer for:

Cognitive Science
Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
Journal of Cognition and Development
Language, Cognition and Neuroscience
Visual Cognition
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society Annual Meetings
Frontiers in Psychology
Selected Proceedings of the EuroAsianPacific Joint Conference on Cognitive Science [EAPCogSci]

Selected Proceedings of the Second Language Research Forum [SLRF]
Selected Proceedings of the Workshop on Infant Language Development [WILD]



Advising


DegreeDateTitle
Joyse MedeirosPhD
[BCBL & UPV]
Exp. 2017
Jane AristiaMaster
[BCBL & UPV]
Exp. 2015Adaptive Decision Making: Evidence from Feedback
Elma Barreiro AbadMaster
[BCBL & UPV]
Sept. 2014Auditory and Visual Word Comprehension:
A Comparative Study using a Lexical Decision Task
(co-supervisor: Dr. A. Samuel)



In the News

Brainprint: Identifying Individuals Based on the Neural Correlates of Reading Processes

A series of news articles focused on my collaborative work with Professor Sarah Laszlo's research group at SUNY Binghamton, in which we studied how different classification methods can be used to uniquely identify individuals based on ERPs collected during reading.  A sample of these articles follows:

Ambiguous Word Comprehension

A press release by GUK (April, 2014) focused on my work in computational cognitive neuroscience and ambiguous word comprehension.

LINK (in Spanish): http://guk.es/sala-de-prensa/neurociencia-para-que-los-ordenadores-entiendan-la-ironia-del-lenguaje-humano/

Archived Copy


An artificial Judge for the Turing Test / Corpus-based Lexical-semantic knowledge

An article in h+ Magazine (March, 2009) featured work that  I co-authored and that was related to the development of an Artificial Critic for Humanness based on word co-occurrence statistics (MacInnes, Armstrong, et al. 2009; 2nd runner up for the Kurzweil prize at the 2009 Artificial General Intelligence Conference).  

LINK: http://www.hplusmagazine.com/articles/ai/future-machine-intelligence

Archived Copy



Blair Armstrong, 2011-