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The program in the summer term 2024

June 20, 2024, 3 PM:

Andreas Nieder (University of Tübingen): The neuronal basis of numerical cognition in humans and nonhuman animals 

Our understanding of numbers, vital to our scientifically and technically advanced culture, has deep biological roots. Research across developmental psychology, anthropology, and animal cognition suggests that our ability to count symbolically arises from more primitive non-symbolic number representations. By studying single-neuron activity in associative brain areas of awake human patients, monkeys, and crows, we aim to uncover the general principles behind how numbers are represented in the brain. Across all species, we've identified "number neurons" that encode set sizes regardless of how the stimuli are presented. These neurons play a crucial role in processing numerical information during goal-directed behavior, showcasing remarkable similarities in behavioral and neuronal mechanisms across species. Moreover, investigating how numbers are processed in working memory offers insights into high-level cognitive control functions. Comparative research in numerical cognition is uniquely positioned to unravel the brain processes enabling humans to transition from nonsymbolic to symbolic representations, a hallmark of our species.



April 26, 2024, 11 AM:

Takafumi Minamimoto (National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology, Japan): Revolutionizing Primate Neuroscience with Imaging-Guided Chemogenetics 

Nonhuman primates (NHPs), especially macaque and marmoset monkeys, are excellent models for elucidating highly organized brain function and behavior. However, the ability to manipulate and study these brains at a network level is currently limited due to the lack of genetic neuromodulation tools available. To bridge this gap, our team has been exploring the use of chemogenetic technology known as Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) in NHPs. DREADDs provide a means to reversibly and remotely control the activity of a neuronal population expressing designer receptors through delivery of their agonist. By combining DREADDs with PET and MR imaging, we have developed a powerful tool for NHP research that enables the visualization and manipulation of specific brain circuits, and the monitoring of changes in network activity. This technology provides exciting prospects for understanding the link between primate brain circuits and behavior, as well as the development of therapeutic applications. In this talk, I will introduce our pioneering imaging-guided chemogenetic strategies and present new insights into the functions of primate prefronto-subcortical circuits.

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Antonio Calapai

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