KLI Colloquia are informal, public talks that are followed by extensive dissussions. Speakers are KLI fellows or visiting researchers who are interested in presenting their work to an interdisciplinary audience and discussing it in a wider research context. We offer three types of talks:

1. Current Research Talks. KLI fellows or visiting researchers present and discuss their most recent research with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

2. Future Research Talks. Visiting researchers present and discuss future projects and ideas togehter with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

3. Professional Developmental Talks. Experts about research grants and applications at the Austrian and European levels present career opportunities and strategies to late-PhD and post-doctoral researchers.

  • The presentation language is English.
  • If you are interested in presenting your current or future work at the KLI, please contact the Scientific Director or the Executive Manager.

Event Details

Thomas Chartier
KLI Colloquia
Associative Learning, a Crucial Cognitive Innovation in Animal Evolution
Thomas CHARTIER (EMBL, Heidelberg & KLI)
2017-05-24 16:30 - 2017-05-24 16:30
Organized by KLI

Topic description:
Associative learning is a cognitive mechanism omnipresent in our mental activities. Automatic in its nature, it allows to build representations of the environment, by extracting the statistical regularities of what we perceive together. We thus unconsciously associate a place with its usual sounds, a flower with its odor, a bird with its song, a face with a name. As objects associated in our memory can evoke each other, associative learning does much more than structuring our knowledge of the world: it also structures our thought dynamics. Associative learning is likely to have represented a crucial evolutionary innovation, and is indeed widespread in the animal kingdom under its best known form, Pavlovian conditioning. I will show how it provides a good framework to understand the emergence of complex mental representations in animal evolution, transitioning from elementary stimuli such as an odor or a sound, to multifaceted objects such as another living organism. I will also present my PhD project, to illustrate how research on new animal models such as the marine worm Platynereis dumerilii can inform us about the origin and evolution of associative learning.


Biographical note:
Thomas Chartier received an engineering degree in 2011 from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, with major in Mathematics and Physics. Interested in life sciences from a physicist's perspective, he followed an interdisciplinary Masters programme at Paris Diderot University and became familiar with various animal models and research topics: biophysics in the nematode Caenorhabditis, neurogenetics in the fruitfly Drosophila, cognitive psychology in the Guinea baboon. He was introduced to philosophy and history of biology, while working on the notion of cell type and tissue classification with the philosopher Jean-Jacques Kupiec at ENS Paris. He is currently a 4th-year PhD student with Detlev Arendt at EMBL Heidelberg, in Germany. Using a recently established animal model, the marine worm Platynereis dumerilii, he seeks to better understand the evolutionary origin of a fundamental animal cognitive ability: associative learning.