Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Donders Lectures 2014

Donders Lectures 2014

The Donders Lectures take place on the campus of the Radboud University: Linnaeus Building , Heyendaalseweg 137, Nijmegen and start at 4.00 pm.

Glyn Humphreys (23 January 2014)

Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University

"The salient self: Explorations of self-bias in mind and brain"

There is much evidence indicating that humans are biased towards responding to stimuli relevant to themselves relative to stimuli associated to other people. The level(s) of processing at which such self bias effects arise, however, is poorly understood. Wee also know little about the factors that ‘drive’ such effects. We have recently examined self biases using a novel associative learning procedure which ‘tags’ stimuli with self-relevance. I will report work showing that self biases in associative matching are highly reliable across individuals across time, are difficult to prevent, reflect activation within a specific brain circuit and reflect changes in saliency similar to those found by changing the perceptual saliency of stimuli. We also show that the effects of self association can dissociate from the effects of reward indicating that self bias does not simply reflect reward bias. The results show that social salience reflects a basic aspect of perceptual and attentional processing in the brain.

March 6, 2014
Dr. Erich Jarvis
Duke University Medical Centre

"Learned Birdsong and the Neurobiology of Human Language"

Elizabeth Phelps (27 March 2014)

Director of lab studying neuroscience of affect, learning and decisions at New York University

"Changing fear"

Animal models of fear learning provide a basis for understanding human fears. This research has demonstrated that the amygdala is necessary for the acquisition, storage and expression of fear learning. This talk will explore how the neural mechanisms identified in animal models are consistent with human brain function and extend this research to the complex learning situations more typical of human experience. I will first describe how the mechanisms of simple associative fear learning extend to the social acquisition of fear in humans. I will then focus on how fear, once acquired, can be diminished. Extinction and emotion regulation, techniques adapted in cognitive behavioral therapy, can be used to control fear via inhibitory signals from the ventromedial prefrontal cortex to the amygdala. One drawback of these techniques is that fears are only inhibited and can return, with one factor being stress. A more lasting means to control fear may be to target the fear memory itself through influencing reconsolidation. I will present evidence suggesting that the behavioral interference of reconsolidation in humans persistently inhibits fear and diminishes involvement of the prefrontal cortex inhibitory circuitry.

9 October 2014
Prof. Dr. Sabine Kastner
Professor of Psychology, Princeton University

"Neural network dynamics for attentional selection in the primate brain"

Natural scenes are cluttered and contain many objects that cannot all be processed simultaneously due to capacity limitations of the visual system. Selective attention refers to a set of mechanisms that route behaviorally relevant information through large-scale cortical networks. I will discuss studies performed in two primate brain models, the human and the macaque monkey, using a variety of different techniques including fMRI, ECoG and single-cell physiology. First, I will discuss how large-scale networks mediating perception and cognition can be identified using functional brain imaging. Second, I will discuss physiology studies revealing temporal dynamics in a distributed large-scale network that mediates the selection of behaviorally relevant information. Particularly, while there is evidence that populations of cortical neurons synchronize their activity to preferentially transmit information about attentional priorities, it is unclear how cortical synchrony across a network is accomplished. I will discuss the unique role of thalamo-cortical interactions in influencing cortical networks to optimize their communication. These studies are complemented by ECoG recordings from human epilepsy patients using identical behavioral paradigms providing a mechanistic understanding of the coding principles that best predict behavior in both primate species.