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  How the brain learns in a complex world

Totah, N. (2021). How the brain learns in a complex world. Talk presented at 22nd Conference of Junior Neuroscientists (NeNa 2021). Tübingen, Germany. 2021-10-07.

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 Abstract: Nelson Totah’s laboratory records and manipulates neural circuits involved in organisms’ ability to adapt to an unpredictable environment. In this talk, he will present data collected from a head-fixed rat-on-a-treadmill apparatus, which enables high resolution monitoring of behavioral responses (treadmill running) and complex cognitive tasks (e.g., auditory-visual attentional set-shifting). he will first show individual-specific strategies employed by rats while they learn to respond to compound auditory-visual stimuli by focusing attention onto a single sensory modality. Using pupillometry and ‘brain-wide’ (32-electrode) EEG recordings, he will show data supporting neuromodulation-triggered cortical network resetting in relation to changing learning strategies. He will also briefly detail his efforts to characterize ensemble activity in the brainstem noradrenergic nucleus, locus coeruleus, and how such activity relates to the control of brain states. In the second part of the talk, he will demonstrate a novel ‘near-mistake’ behavioral paradigm in rats. We all know what it feels like to stop ourselves just before we commit a mistake. What happens in the brain during this cognitive process? To investigate this in rats, Totah’s lab trained them to run when they see a ‘Go’ stimulus and remain immobile when they see a different ‘NoGo’ stimulus. A near-mistakes occurs when the rat initiates an incorrect running response to the NoGo stimulus, but quickly realizes their mistake and stops ongoing movement before crossing a response threshold (treadmill running distance). They demonstrate that anterior cingulate cortex firing rate and dimensionality-reduced population activity signal the magnitude of ‘conflict’ between competing Go and Stop actions by scaling firing rate with near-mistake movement size. He will place this result in the context of how the brain detects mistakes, monitors self-performance, and uses that signal to learn, adapt, and improve future behavior. Finally, he will touch upon a new direction of work studying how subjective perception of visual illusions modulates pupil size in rats.

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 Dates: 2021-10
 Publication Status: Published online
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Title: 22nd Conference of Junior Neuroscientists (NeNa 2021)
Place of Event: Tübingen, Germany
Start-/End Date: 2021-10-07

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Title: NeNa Conference 2021: Neurowissenschaftliche Nachwuchskonferenz (Conference of Junior Neuroscientists)
Source Genre: Proceedings
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