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Seminar: Prof Jonathan Wallis
August 1, 2016 @ 16:00 - 17:30
Decoding dynamic cognitive processes from neural ensembles
Monday 1 August @ 4 pm – 5:30 pm (Sherrington Library)
Jonathan Wallis from the Department of Psychology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley will speak about the activity of neural ensembles in the orbitofrontal cortex during decision-making. His research group focuses on how goals are represented in the prefrontal cortex at the single neuron level and how decisions are in turn controlled by these goals.
A major challenge to understanding the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive processes is that these processes cannot be directly observed, but rather must be inferred from behavioral measures. Furthermore, there could be considerable variability in these processes from one iteration to the next. Because neuronal responses are inherently stochastic, studies of cognitive processes typically average activity across many repeated trials. However, when the dynamics of those processes vary, this approach can obscure critical mechanistic details. In this talk, I will describe recent studies in my lab which have uncovered the dynamics of decision-making in orbitofrontal cortex with single trial resolution by leveraging the power of decoding ensemble activity by recording from many orbitofrontal neurons simultaneously. During individual choices, neural representations alternate between states associated with each available option, as if the network were considering them in turn.