Sensory Information Processing

How our perception of the world is formed remains a topic of debate. Generally there are two different views – either perception is primarily driven by external sensory inputs or it is primarily driven by the internal circuitry of the brain. Scientists have recently discovered that the brain is never quiet but rather is always active regardless of what an individual is doing. It is likely then, that perception is formed through the interaction between ongoing cortical activity and sensory input. Dr. MacLean and his lab will examine how ongoing spontaneous activity in the cortex interacts with thalamic inputs – the thalamus is the relay station between the outside world and the brain.
They will perform these experiments in the visual and auditory cortex. They have previously examined this interaction in the somatosensory cortex and have found that ongoing activity acts to suppress the influence of sensory inputs in the brain suggesting that perception is at least in part determined by the internal circuitry of the brain. However it is unclear whether this type of interaction is specific to the somatosensory cortex or whether it is a general property of the sensory cortices. Dr. MacLean will replicate these experiments in the auditory and visual cortex in order to evaluate the interaction between the thalamus and ongoing cortical activity in these two other primary sensory cortices. He will then be able to compare and contrast the role of ongoing activity in sensory information processing across the three sensory modalities. In tum he will be able to look for common strategies in coding, anatomy and processing in the primary sensory cortices. This study will lead to new insights into how ongoing spontaneous activity that occurs in the brain affects how we perceive our world.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The Role of Microglial Lysosomes in Selective Neuronal Vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the Nervous System Constructs Internal Models of the External World
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the Orchestra of Movement—Functional Role of Striatal Astrocytes in Health and Disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…