Dynamic cortical networks for cognitive flexibility
Dr Nicholas Myers
University of Oxford
Consider the flexibility required for a common task like taking a new route to work: at a crossroads where you usually turn left, you now go straight. How do we change our behaviour so easily? The prefrontal cortex is a key region for cognitive flexibility, but how it does this is unknown. I propose that the prefrontal cortex communicates with the rest of the brain using selective synchronisation. By setting up communication channels between relevant sets of neurons, synchronisation selects the appropriate pathway out of the myriad possible links between sensory input and action (much like railway switches ensure that a train arrives at its intended destination). An older view associates each brain area with a particular function, but this view is based on tightly orchestrated global brain networks.
I will combine brain recordings with machine learning techniques to understand how synchronisation in and between brain areas contributes to flexibility.
Synchronisation may be a fundamental principle of brain function, which makes this project relevant for basic neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry.