Elucidating the neural basis of active sensing in the cerebellar cortex
Dr Susu Chen
University College London
Sensory processing is naturally intertwined with active movements in animals. In contrast to passive stimulation, the processing of sensory inputs is related to even subtle adaptive actions of the animal during active sensing. For example, mice sense the world by actively moving their whiskers and tactile processing is strongly dependent upon this movement.
This project aims to determine basic principles by which the brain processes and integrates sensorimotor information during natural behaviour using the accessible mouse whisker system as a model. I will track whisking behaviour via videography and simultaneously record neuronal activities in the cerebellum – a key brain structure involved in the real-time integration of sensory and motor signals.
Gaining a better understanding of the neural mechanisms of active sensing is not only important in its own right, it is likely to bring us a step closer to understanding brain dysfunctions in neurological disorders, such as autism, where sensorimotor integration and learning is disrupted. New knowledge on computations performed by the brain, in particular the cerebellum, will also be essential for developing better brain/machine interfaces and inspiring new robotic technologies.