“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

Albert Einstein

Research Unit 5159

Our environment is constantly changing. Successful survival under these conditions implies that our behavior has to be flexible as well. We experience different places and contexts, have to conduct different tasks in a rapid sequence and need to constantly develop and re-arrange acting strategies. These abilities are not inherited, but develop with age and their regression forms the core of several pathologies. It is commonly held that in mammalian species the prefrontal cortex is the hub brain area accounting for the flexibility of minds (i.e. cognitive flexibility).

The Research Unit 5159 has been launched in January 2022. Our mission is to decipher the dynamic principles of prefrontal processing underlying cognitive flexibility.

Upcoming Events

Title: Cortexwide neural dynamics during multisensory decision-making

Musall Group – ibehave

Short Summary: Understanding how cortical circuits dynamically integrate sensory information to generate complex behavior requires investigating the cell types that comprise them. To address this, we used widefield imaging to measure the cortex-wide activity of distinct classes of excitatory pyramidal neurons (PyNs) and investigated their functional role in mice that performed a multisensory decision-making task. We used two mouse lines, expressing the calcium indicator GCaMP6s in either pyramidal-tract (PT) or intratelencephalic (IT) neurons. We found major PyN-specific differences in the complexity and spatial layout of cortical activity patterns, at both local and mesoscale levels, suggesting the existence of specialized subcircuits. Sensory responses were largest in the sensory, parietal, and frontal cortex but each PyN type showed pronounced differences in cortical localization and spatial specificity. Additionally, choice-related activity differed between PyN types, with PT neurons displaying ramping and contralateral choice-selective activity in the frontal cortex, while IT neurons showed ipsilateral choice signals. PyN-type-specific optogenetic inhibition of the parietal cortex disrupted sensory processing, while frontal inactivation of subcortically-projecting PT neurons affected choice formation. High-density Neuropixels recordings in the frontal cortex and the superior colliculus (SC) revealed clear differences in neural coding, such as context-dependent choice signals in the frontal cortex but not the deep SC. Our work reveals PyN-specific dynamics throughout the cortex, showing that cortical regions perform parallel computations through distinct cortical-subcortical interactions that enable multisensory choice formation.

Awards and Achievements

Burkhart Bromm-Promotionspreis 2022 awarded to Dr Jastyn A. Pöpplau

Thomas Bayes-Nachwuchsförderpreis 2022 awarded to Dr. Artur Schneider

Image source: Patrick Seeger/Universität Freiburg

Thomas Bayes-Nachwuchsförderpreis: Herausragende Abschlussarbeiten (Masterarbeiten, Promotionen) auf dem Gebiet der Datenanalyse und Modellbildung in den Lebenswissenschaften. Preisgeld 5.000 Euro.

Bernstein-CorTec-Award 2022 awarded to Dr. Artur Schneider

                                                                  Image source: Patrick Seeger/Universität Freiburg

Bernstein-CorTec-Award: Hervorragende wissenschaftliche Leistungen in Promotionen oder Masterarbeiten von Promovierenden oder Studierenden der Universität Freiburg in einem für Computational Neuroscience und Neurotechnologie relevanten Thema. Preisgeld 1.000 Euro.


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