Stefano Mancuso, LINV, U Florence, Italy: Green then Smart - Spatial Awareness in Plant

Somewhere between 400 and 1,000 million years ago, plants initiated a sessile lifestyle, taking advantage of the ubiquity of light as a source of energy as well as devising ways of compensating for body losses suffered because of browsing predators. Among the primary advances made by plants and sessile animals to survive predation was the evolution of different modular structures to ensure that in case of environmental damage or predation some module of the body may survive and regenerate the individual. In general, as a consequence of this primordial decision for a sessile and modular lifestyle, the specialization of tissues and cells in plants is minimised, if compared with animals, to limit predatory damages. Another consequence of the “sessile decision” was the need of a well-organized sensing system, which allows plants to explore efficiently the environment and to react rapidly to potential dangerous circumstances. Plants below and above ground are aware of the space surrounding them. Such responsiveness is indeed necessary to provide the appropriate actions in response to the many environmental stimuli. Example will be reported showing space perception in plants. If this is or not to be defined as spatial cognition I hope the audience will help me to answer.

Stefano Mancuso is professor at the university of Florence and head of the LINV ( an international laboratory devoted to the study of the plant behavior. He is the the co-founder of the Society of Plant Signaling & Behavior and Editor in chief of the homonymous Journal. At the LINV he explore how plants learn and memorize information, communicate with each other, using a complex internal analysis system to find nutrients, spread their species and defend themselves against predators.

Ranxiao Frances Wang, Psychology, U Illinois, USA: How to Differentiate Spatial Reference Frames

Reference frame is one of the main topics of spatial cognition, and a large literature has been devoted to the issue of egocentric vs allocentric representations across a wide range of areas including animal behavior, neural function, child development, language, and eye movements. Most research used paradigms such as novel short-cut tests, novel start tests, landmark/cue control, and perspective change. However, recent studies on spatial updating and landmark-based re-calibration challenged the logical foundation of these classical paradigms. In this talk, I will review the common mis-interpretations of spatial reference frames in the literature and discuss several new research paradigms developed to examine the reference frames used in human navigation and spatial memory, including the configuration error paradigm, the attraction analysis and the error distribution analysis.

Dr. Ranxiao Frances Wang received her PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999 in Computational Cognitive Sciences and is currently a professor in the Department of Psychology and the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois.  Dr. Wang's research focuses on visual and spatial cognition, including how people encode and process spatial information during navigation;  how humans perceive optic flow and make judgments about their locomotion; how the visual system temporally separate and integrate the continuous stream of optical stimulation to coherent percepts; how people recognize objects and scenes, and human spatial representations of higher-dimensional objects and space.  She has published over 60 articles in journals and book chapters, including Psychological Science, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Cognition, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, and Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, Memory & Cognition, among others.

Stephan Winter, Geomatics, U Melbourne, Australia: Connecting Location and Place

Remember Phileas Fogg’s challenge of finding a travel plan and then realizing it? Today travel planning still takes time, even in an age that provides no more printed timetables but promises “all information at our fingertips”. So, have our systems really become smarter over the decades? Do the systems “understand” us, and we our systems? In my talk I will address the notion of an intelligent spatial information system. I will explain what ‘intelligent’ comprises, demonstrate by examples the (potential) impact of intelligent systems, and then explore a few approaches to make spatial systems more intelligent. The link is of course a cognitive one, revealing the gap between human – place based – spatial representation and communication on one side, and the interaction with a system that is by and large location based on the other. I will conclude with a short a research agenda.

Stephan Winter is Discipline Leader, Geomatics, and Professor in Spatial Information Science at the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, The University of Melbourne. He holds a master degree (Dipl.-Ing., 1991) and a PhD (Dr.-Ing., cum laude, 1997) from the University of Bonn, and a habilitation from the Technical University Vienna (2001). His research area, spatial information science, is an interdisciplinary field between artificial intelligence, information science, geography and philosophy. Within this field he is specializing on human navigation and intelligent transport, from human-machine interaction – with a particular record on landmarks and route directions – to cooperative transport. He helps formulating the concepts of intelligent spatial systems, computational transportation science, and probabilistic time geography.