Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Yiping Zhang (Donders Series 614)

15 May 2023

Promotor: Prof. dr. T. Celikel
Co-promotor: Dr. F. Zeldenrust

Top-down regulation of adaptive sensorimotor control

Top-down regulation of sensory information processing is critical for sensory neurons to construct an internal representation of the external world and adapt these representations based on prior experience, goals and expectations. In this thesis, we have focused on the role of serotonin and dopamine in controlling sensory processing in the primary somatosensory cortex and in the whisker system. To do so, we have first developed a robotic animal trainer to train animals on a tactile object localization task. Using this high-throughput approach to behavioral neuroscience, we have shown that serotonergic regulation during development controls integration of sensory information; even transient intervention with the serotonergic signalling during development alters spatiotemporal integration of information in adulthood. Neuromodulatory control over sensory processing is not specific to serotonin, as dopamine powerfully controls the action potential threshold, information transfer in single neurons and integration of sensory information at the network and behavioural level. These results combined with the new tools, including all wireless remote control of neural activity in a magnetic field, that will allow targeted control of bottom-up sensory information flow will help to systematically dissect the contribution of any neuromodulator to sensation and perception.