Chatham University

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Do you see what I see?

Scientists model brain structure to help computers recognize objects

By: Nancy Ambrosiano, LANL Public Information Officer

December 20, 2011

LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico(December 20, 2011)… An essential question confronting neuroscientists and computer vision

Dr. Vadas Gintautas

researchers alike is how objects can be identified by simply “looking” at an image. Introspectively, we know that the human brain solves this problem very well. We only have to look at something to know what it is.

But teaching a computer to “know” what it’s looking at is far harder. In research published this fall in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Computational Biology journal, a team from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Chatham University, and Emory University first measured human performance on a visual task ‑ identifying a certain kind of shape when an image is flashed in front of a viewer for a very short amount of time (20-200 milliseconds). Human performance gets worse, as expected, when the image is shown for shorter time periods. Also as expected, humans do worse when the shapes are more complicated.

But could a computer be taught to recognize shapes as well, and then do it faster than humans? The team tried developing a computer model based on human neural structure and function, to do what we do, and possibly do it better.

Their paper, “Model Cortical Association Fields Account for the Time Course and Dependence on Target Complexity of Human Contour Perception,” describes how, after measuring human performance, they created a computer model to also attempt to pick out the shapes.

“This model is biologically inspired and relies on leveraging lateral connections between neurons in the same layer of a model of the human visual system,” said Vadas Gintautas of Chatham University in Pittsburgh and formerly a researcher at Los Alamos.

Neuroscientists have characterized neurons in the primate visual cortex that appear to underlie object recognition, noted senior author Garrett Kenyon of Los Alamos. “These neurons, located in the inferotemporal cortex, can be strongly activated when particular objects are visible, regardless of how far away the objects are or how the objects are posed, a phenomenon referred to as viewpoint invariance.”

The brain has an uncanny ability to detect and identify certain things, even if they’re barely visible. Now the challenge is to get computers to do the same thing. And programming the computer to process the information laterally, like the brain does, might be a step in the right direction.

How inferotemporal neurons acquire their viewpoint invariant properties is unknown, but many neuroscientists point to the hierarchical organization of the human visual cortex as likely being an essential aspect.

“Lateral connections have been generally overlooked in similar models designed to solve similar tasks. We demonstrated that our model qualitatively reproduces human performance on the same task, both in terms of time and difficulty. Although this is certainly no guarantee that the human visual system is using lateral interactions in the same way to solve this task, it does open up a new way to approach object detection problems,” Gintautas said.

Simple features, such as particular edges of the image in a specific orientation, are extracted at the first cortical processing stage, called the primary visual cortex, or V1. Then subsequent cortical processing stages, V2, V4, etc., extract progressively more complex features, culminating in the inferotemporal cortex where that essential “viewpoint invariant object identification” is thought to occur. But, most of the connections in the human brain do not project up the cortical hierarchy, as might be expected from gross neuroanatomy, but rather connect neurons located at the same hierarchical level, called lateral connections, and also project down the cortical hierarchy to lower processing levels.

In the recently published work, the team modeled lateral interactions between cortical edge detectors to determine if such connections could explain the difficulty and time course of human contour perception. This research thus combined high-performance computer simulations of cortical circuits, using a National Science Foundation funded neural simulation toolbox, called PetaVision, developed by LANL researchers, along with “speed-of-sight” psychophysical measurements of human contour perception. The psychophysical measurements refer to an experimental technique that neuroscientists use to study mechanisms of cortical processing, using the open-source Psychtoolbox software as an advanced starting point.

“Our research represented the first example of a large-scale cortical model being used to account for both the overall accuracy, as well as the processing time, of human subjects performing a challenging visual-perception task,” said Kenyon.

About Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

LANL news media contact: Nancy Ambrosiano, (505) 667-0471, nwa@lanl.gov

About Chatham University
Chatham University prepares students from around the world to help develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Consistently ranked among the top master’s level institutions in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, Chatham University is also ranked in the top five percent of graduate-intensive institutions nationally and experienced the fastest-growing enrollment in the Pittsburgh region over the past decade. Founded in 1869, Chatham University includes the Shadyside Campus, with the historic 39-acre Woodland Road arboretum and Chatham Eastside facility; and the 388-acre Eden Hall Campus north of Pittsburgh. For more information, call 800-837-1290 or visit www.chatham.edu.

Chatham University news media contact: Amanda Leff Ritchie, (412) 365-1125,aritchie@chatham.edu

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Chatham selected to strengthen U.S. ties with Brazil

By Amanda Leff Ritchie, Senior Public Relations Specialist
December 15, 2011

PITTSBURGH (December 15, 2011)… The Institute of International Education (IIE) recently announced that Chatham University is one of 18 U.S. colleges and universities selected for the 2012 Brazil initiative of its International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP). Throughout the next year, IIE will lead a series of training activities to help each institution implement and sustain partnerships in Brazil, culminating with a study tour to Brazil in spring 2012 to meet with potential partner campuses.

“Higher education is an important area of collaboration between the United States and Brazil because of its impact on the critical issues that we face today and leaders of tomorrow,” said IIE President Allan E. Goodman. “The partnership program will strengthen the educational ties between Brazil and the United States, and pave the way for students from both countries to gain critical global competencies.”

 Other participating U.S. institutions are as follows: Baruch College, CUNY; Brandeis University; Brookdale Community College; Chatham University; California State University, Fullerton; Daemen College; East Tennessee State University; Illinois State University; Monroe Community College; Monterey Institute of International Studies; Queens College, CUNY; Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; Stevens Institute of Technology; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; University of South Florida; University of Toledo; and Washington State University.

 Each institution has made a commitment to form a campus-wide task force to work on prospective partnerships, conduct an institution-wide inventory of activities pertaining to Brazil and develop a strategic plan focused on partnership with Brazil. Each school will also work with a mentor from the IAPP Brazil Advisory Board members who can offer high-level input on its partnership strategy.

 IIE’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education manages the International Academic Partnership Program, which was established in 2009 with an initial two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). In awarding the grant, FIPSE intended to help jumpstart an academic partnership program in higher education between the United States and other countries that would grow into a self-sustaining program.

 The launch of the 2012 IAPP Brazil initiative represents the partnership program’s expansion into a new region. Since 2009, two cohorts of U.S. institutions each have focused on building partnerships with institutions in India and China.

About the Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has network of 18 offices worldwide and over 1,000 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals, and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad. www.iie.org

About Chatham University
Chatham University prepares students from around the world to help develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Consistently ranked among the top master’s level institutions in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, Chatham University is also ranked in the top five percent of graduate-intensive institutions nationally and experienced the fastest-growing enrollment in the Pittsburgh region over the past decade. Founded in 1869, Chatham University includes the Shadyside Campus, with the historic 39-acre Woodland Road arboretum and Chatham Eastside facility; and the 388-acre Eden Hall Campus north of Pittsburgh. For more information, call 800-837-1290 or visit www.chatham.edu.

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The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University presents Ready to Run™ Pittsburgh

By: Amanda Leff Ritchie, Senior Public Relations Specialist
December 12, 2011 

PITTSBURGH (December 12, 2011)… The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University is hosting a new campaign school for women considering entering the political arena. The Jan. 21 one-day bi-partisan conference, Ready to Run™ Pittsburgh, will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Chatham’s Shadyside Campus in the Mellon Board Room. The cost to attend is $50. Register online at www.pcwp.org.

“This campaign school is distinctive in that it is bi-partisan and does not cost participants a great deal of time or treasure,” says Dana Brown, executive director of the PCWP.

Ready to Run™ Pittsburgh will feature media and public speaking training with Deb Sofield, a national award-winning speaker and executive speech and presentations coach, and a session titled “Fundraising for Success” by Nancy Bocskor, internationally renowned political speaker and educator.

Other sessions will help participants to navigate Pennsylvania’s political parties and learn how to develop campaign plans.

About the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics
The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) is a non–partisan center devoted to fostering women’s public leadership through education, empowerment, and action.

The first center to focus on women’s political involvement in Pennsylvania, the PCWP integrates disciplinary knowledge, civic education, and coalition building while examining the intersection of women and public policy. The Center conducts candidate and advocacy trainings, offers educational programs in applied politics, and provides timely analysis on women’s issues. The Center is also home to the University’s membership in Project Pericles – a select group of liberal arts colleges and universities that have made institutional commitments to promoting participatory citizenship and social responsibility.

The Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy was established in 1998 through the generosity of the Hillman Foundation, Inc. and the Maurice Falk Medical Foundation. It was then reconceived and endowed in 2003, by the Hillman Foundation.

About Chatham University
Chatham University prepares students from around the world to help develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Consistently ranked among the top master’s level institutions in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, Chatham University is also ranked in the top five percent of graduate-intensive institutions nationally and experienced the fastest-growing enrollment in the Pittsburgh region over the past decade. Founded in 1869, Chatham University includes the Shadyside Campus, with the historic 39-acre Woodland Road arboretum and Chatham Eastside facility; and the 388-acre Eden Hall Campus north of Pittsburgh. For more information, call 800-837-1290 or visit www.chatham.edu.

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