Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience
A stimulus catches our attention, we gather more information about it, and generate a response. This sequence repeats itself thousands of times each day. The underlying neuronal mechanisms allowing us to perform these operations are thought to rely on a cascade of neuronal activity in which presynaptic generation leads to postsynaptic integration of action potentials, eventually generating a behavioral response as a consequence of the stimulus. To meet the demands of a dynamically changing environment, these responses must be flexible, fast, and of great diversity.
Because a typical behavioral task involves millions of neurons, it will be impossible, for some time, to record, and more importantly, to analyze the entire process. This is why we need carefully crafted, biologically plausible models to simulate what we cannot (yet) measure.
The Vogels group is looking to build models of cortical networks that contain our cumulative current knowledge. In particular, we are interested in the neuronal interplay of excitatory and inhibitory activity in cortex and how theses dynamics can form reliable sensory perceptions and stable memories. Our aim is to validate or falsify some of the current ideas of how the brain works, and to generate testable predictions of cause and effect in active neuronal circuits. We hope to contribute to a more targeted approach to both experimental work and clinical application by suggesting what questions to ask, and what answers to expect from the ever growing flood of new in vivo and in vitro data.