In 1990, the MRC/EPSRC JRC initiative in cognitive science funded work on the Sceptic computer language (Cooper et al. 1996). Sceptic was developed into a powerful simulation tool and rigorous method for computational modelling of cognitive and neurological systems. Continuing funding by the EPSRC lead to the development of a powerful modelling environment, COGENT (Cooper & Fox, 1998), which allows models to be constructed and tested using a mixed graphical- and rule-based system, together with extensive support for combined programmes of experimental, theoretical and model-based research (e.g. documenting developing theories over time, archiving of theoretical and experimental results, and direct comparison of predicted and actual data, sharing of models and data via the internet).
COGENT takes an object-oriented approach to modelling. This has two important motivations:
* Objects in a model are encapsulated. That is, their internal structure is defined separately from their interaction with other objects. This allows the overall structure of a simulation to be developed independently of the detailed operation of its components. Models may be hierarchically refined by working first on the most general structure then refining the operation of components, and the implications of different lower-level assumptions within the same high-level structure may easily be assessed.
COGENT has been successful, leading to publications in the technical literature (Cooper & Fox, 1998) and in basic research. A book on the software and its use in cognitive science has also been published. More than 1000 copies of the system have been downloaded from the internet.
David Glasspool: dglasspo at inf.ed.ac.uk