Cognitive Neuropsychology

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DirectThalamus - ERC Starting Grantthalamus_klein

How the human thalamus guides navigation and memory:
a common coding framework built on direct thalamic recordings

The thalamus is the major gateway for sensory input to the brain, and, as such, has long been thought of as a mere sensory relay station. But accumulating evidence suggests that it is crucially involved in higher cognitive functions like memory formation and navigation. However, methodological obstacles still impede full understanding of the specific role of thalamus in human cognition.

The core objective of DirectThalamus is to provide an advanced oscillatory model of subcortical processing as the neuronal basis of core cognitive functions. To this end, the project will address several key questions with the aim to identify and understand neuronal processing in the thalamus involved in human cognition:
How does the human thalamus code and communicate information? And how does this contribute to spatial navigation and the formation and consolidation of memories?

In this project, we will exploit the rare opportunity to directly access the human anterior thalamus in epilepsy patients. Together with intracranial recordings from the human medial temporal lobe and comparative non-invasive data from healthy subjects, these data will be used to test and establish a common coding framework for memory and navigation, highlighting thalamic mechanisms underlying core cognitive functions. The project aims at pushing the boundaries of the state of the art in cognitive neuroscience towards a comprehensive understanding of cognition and expanding the prevalent corticocentric focus on cognition to subcortical brain areas.