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Section C

Cognitive Level


On the cognitive level, in research section C, we will ask: How do dynamical interactions among sets of brain areas mediate the flexible use of neuronal processing resources and strategies? The projects in section C build on BCCN-Göttingen’s strong track record in cognitive neuroscience and computational vision. C1 and C3 combine the expertise of Gail’s, Geisel’s and Treue’s groups to approach the largely elusive problem of interareal interactions and top-down modulation in cortical function. C1 (Battaglia/Gail/Geisel), the theoretical core project of section C, will use coupled ring-models of interareal interactions to understand the interactions underlying context dependent sensory motor transformations and attentional modulation on a circuit level. In addition, it will work theoretically towards a general understanding of the basic determinants of interareal interactions. Model predictions will be assessed by reversible inactivation experiments in rhesus monkey visual and motor cortical areas. The closely related project C3 (Treue/Liebetanz/Witt) will probe the interactions between likely source areas of top-down attentional modulation and area MT in the visual cortex by simultaneous recordings from pairs of areas and intra cortical micro-stimulation in candidate source areas for attentional modulation. As an alternative approach that can be used in the human brain, C3 will also utilize robot assisted methods for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) that promise to attain an unprecedented specificity of TMS stimulation. Examining the data collected in C3 with advanced statistical methods will provide additional constraints and challenging modelling problems for theoretical work in project C1. These integrated theoretical and experimental studies of functional interareal interactions in primate neocortex will be complemented by project C2 (Frahm/Hohage), which targets the anatomical basis of interareal interactions. Project C2 builds on prior collaborative work of Frahm’s pioneering MRI Group and the Göttingen University mathematician Hohage, an expert in inverse problems and mathematical statistics. It aims to develop a highly improved methodology for white matter fiber tract mapping with diffusion tensor imaging. Projects C1-C3 will thus realize a tightly connected and coherent research program aiming to unravel the basis, functions and mechanisms of interareal interactions. Project C5 (Fischer/Wolf) is linked to them through a joint interest in processing, encoding and decoding sensory information. Just like C3 asks how top-down influences need to be guided to optimize information encoding and transfer, C5 looks at high-level auditory signal processing to understand how auditory systems are optimized to encode and decode communication signals under low signal-to-noise conditions. Presumably, cortical processing networks similar to those studied in Projects C1-C3 also underly the ability of non-human primates (the subject of project C5) to differentiate vocalizations and to process sequences of vocalizations to reduce uncertainty in communication.

Projects involved:

C5 - Processing of graded signalling systems

Julia Fischer and Fred Wolf