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Self-organisation as a theory of brain development


Project Description

Self-organisation is a general theory of how function is assigned to cortical microcircuits. The theory predicts that a balance between cooperative and competitive interactions in local cortical circuits, consolidated by Hebbian learning, results in similar inputs being represented by nearby neurons. Simulations of cortical self-organisation have mainly concerned vision, where ’similar inputs’ may translate to ’pixels at similar retinal locations’ or ’edges of similar orientation’. My previous work has extended the approach for touch, showing that ’similar inputs’ can, for example, translate to ’body parts often touching’. In principle, self-organising models can generate predictions about the functional organisation assigned to any cortical area. In practice, the validity of these models is limited by the accuracy with which model inputs reflect natural developmental experiences. Particularly for ’higher-order’ cortical areas that combine information from multiple sources, i.e., multisensory or sensorimotor areas, natural interactions between these sources are difficult to synthesize. The project aims to address this bottleneck, by exploiting natural human and animal behaviours to generate inputs for models of map formation. This should help improve our understanding of the developmental mechanisms that underlie disorders of multisensory and sensorimotor integration.

Reading:
- Wilson SP, Bednar JA (2015) What, if anything, are topological maps for? Developmental Neurobiology, 75(6), 667-681
- Bednar JA, Wilson SP (2015) Cortical Maps, The Neuroscientist (in press). doi:10.1177/1073858415597645

Funding Notes

Self funding or sponsored students only. No University funding.

NB The University has some tuition fee scholarship under competition - application deadline is 23 January 2019 at 5pm

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.45

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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