Simulation and embodied cognition in Neuroscience and AI

// MECS // Workshop //  January 26, 2017 // 10:00 – 18:00 //
Yvonne Förster: Workshop »Simulation and embodied cognition in Neuroscience and AI«


The workshop seeks to explore various aspects of simulation within the broader topic of embodiment. Theories of embodiment are especially relevant to the areas of Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence. Simulating neural activity in artificial networks or the utopian idea of uploading one’s mind into a computer are topics currently stimulating a wide-ranging debate in society. This debate as well as cinematic and artistic imaginations of the technological future draw on developments in neuroscience and AI. Scientific approaches to investigate cognition oscillate between reductionist accounts of cognition as neural process and more holistic approaches taking embodiment as a necessary constituent of cognition. This also holds for AI, where disembodied models of cognition are more and more substituted by attempts to integrate sensory-motor feedback in artificial cognitive architectures. Neuromorphic computing for example mimics the neural structure of the brain and thereby advances computational possibilities. The question here is, what counts as embodiment: Is the physical synapse already to be regarded as embodiment of information, as Patricia Churchland (2013) proposes or is embodiment to be defined as the structures, which enables sensory-motor-feedback loops and relation with an environment, as Thomas Fuchs (2010) suggests?

Simulation is used as a method to investigate neural processes or to enhance artificial intelligence by simulating bodily processes. Within the cluster of neuroscience, technology, artificial intelligence simulation figures as a method as well as a theory. Especially in theories of embodied cognition, simulation of bodily states in relation to more abstract neural states (Gallese, Sinigaglia 2011) is an important topic, because here abstract theories of embodiment are applied to empirical neuroscientific research. Thus simulation needs to be discussed as heuristic method and as an hypothesis regarding fundamental cognitive processes. One of the important questions is how embodiment and simulation in those fields are related? How can simulation as a method be used in more holistic approaches, what are the methods to single out the content of simulation? The workshop is designed to investigate the role of simulation within the following fields (related topics are welcome):

  • 1) What role does embodied simulation play in the investigation of human cognition and social behavior?
  • 2) Which methods of simulation are applied in neuroscience and how are these kinds of simulation related to accounts of embodied cognition?
  • 3) What is the relation of embodiment and simulation in Artificial Intelligence?
  • 4) Do utopias of disembodied intelligence (cinema, posthumanism) require simulations of embodiment in order to develop their narratives?


Thursday, January 26, 2017
10.00Gesa Lindemann (Uni Oldenburg, Sociology)

Yvonne Förster (MECS, Leuphana University, Philosophy)
»Simulating Human Life: Cinema as Future Lab«

14.00Florian Röhrbein (TU München, Computer Science)
»Brain-inspired Robotics in The Human Brain Project« 

Maren Wehrle (KU Leuven, Husserl Archiv, Philosophy)
»Excentric positionality: embodiment in virtual and augmented realities?« 

16.30Tom Ziemke (University of Skövde, Cognitive Science)
»Embodied simulation and the intentional stance: How we understand people, cars, and robots - and why that's a problem« 

Tentative Schedule
- 20 minutes presentation
- 20-30 minutes discussion
- short break after each talk



Conference venue
Media Culture of Computer Simulations
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Wallstraße 3
21335 Lüneburg



Concept & Organization
Yvonne Fröster



The workshop is open to the public and free of charge, but registration is required. Please register by sending an e-mail to: