Lab Meetings

We meet regularly to host external speakers, discuss progress of current lab projects  and rehearse presentations by lab members in London and elsewhere. Past and upcoming external talks include: 

March 18, 2019: 
Mapping relational knowledge in the service of flexible cognition
Mona Garvert (Max Planck, UCL) 

Our environment is replete with statistical structure and similar cause-effect relationships hold across related experiences. By extracting and storing relational knowledge efficiently, the brain can therefore predict states and reinforcements that were never directly experienced. In physical space, the hippocampal-entorhinal system organises statistical regularities between landmarks in a cognitive map, which provides a coordinate system that enables inferences about spatial relationships. In this talk, I demonstrate that a similar map-like organisation of knowledge can also be observed for discrete relationships between objects that are entirely non-spatial, suggesting that the same codes may also organise other dimensions of our experiences. When subjects need to flexibly switch between cognitive maps characterised by the same underlying structure, but a different distribution of stimuli, structural knowledge is abstracted away from sensory representations in the medial prefrontal cortex over time. Such a separation of structure from stimulus representations may facilitate the generalisation of knowledge across sensory environments and thereby accelerate learning in novel situations. Together, these studies suggest a potential neural mechanism underlying the remarkable human ability to draw accurate inferences from little data.

April 15, 2019:

Representations of touch in the somatosensory cortices

Luigi Tamè (Kent)

Detecting and discriminating sensory stimuli are fundamental functions of the nervous system. Electrophysiological and lesion studies suggest that macaque primary somatosensory cortex (SI) is critically involved in discriminating between stimuli, but is not required simply for detecting stimuli. By contrast, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies in humans have shown near-complete disruption of somatosensory detection when a single pulse of TMS is delivered over SI. In my presentation, in accordance with macaque studies, I will provide empirical evidence suggesting that human SI is required for discriminating between tactile stimuli and for maintaining stimulus representations over time, or under high task demand, but may not be required for simple tactile detection. Moreover, I will provide empirical evidence showing that human SI, rather than higher level brain areas, is critically involved in the estimation of tactile distance perception as well as bilateral integration of touch.