Seminar Abstract

Andrea Stocco

Understanding Brain Function Through Neurocomputational Modeling: The Case of the Basal Ganglia

Time: 12:30 pm on Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Place: Savery 409

The basal ganglia are a set of interconnected nuclei located in the middle of the brain. There is much evidence that the basal ganglia they play a crucial role in many cognitive functions (including language, attention, learning, and working memory). However, their particular physiology and their widespread involvement makes it is difficult to investigate the role of basal ganglia using typical neuroimaging methods.

In this talk I will show that a modeling approach can be used to circumvent these obstacles. In particular, I will discuss a set of neurocomputational models that account for various properties of the basal ganglia circuit in a mechanistic way. According to these models, the basal ganglia control the routing of signals between cortical regions, making it possible to quickly and flexibly adapt the flow of information processing in the brain.

These models’ predictions cannot be verified directly with typical neuroimaging methods. However, they can be tested with a more sophisticated approach called Dynamic Causal Modeling (DCM), which allows estimating the effective connectivity within a network of predefined brain regions. As an example, I will present some preliminary results of the application of DCM to understanding the role of the basal ganglia in autism.


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