Following a recent paradigm shift in neuroscience, the brain is often thought to generate active predictions of its environment. Neural predictions of temporal information, in particular, are a current research frontier. A key challenge is to provide a unifying mechanistic explanation of neural expectations ranging from microscopic electrophysiology, via models of interacting populations of neurons, to macroscopic signals observed non-invasively. Auditory and speech perception are the optimal testing ground for studying temporal dynamics of predictive processing in the brain, as most auditory signals only gain meaning as temporal sequences.
This project aims at (1) providing a mechanistic model explaining how temporal expectations influence neural activity in auditory cortex across species (rats and humans), and (2) test whether the mechanisms established for simple auditory stimuli generalise to rich, complex and hierarchical structures characteristic of speech stimuli. These research objectives will be addressed in a coherent programme based on well-controlled psychoacoustic and psycholinguistic experiments, combining extracellular electrophysiology in rats and neuroimaging (magneto- and encephalography) in humans with novel analytic tools. By integrating knowledge from disparate fields such as systems-level neuroscience and psycholinguistics, the project will yield novel and unique evidence testing the generality (across species and stimulus domains) and specificity (regarding the proposed neural mechanisms) of the influential theories construing the brain as an inherently predictive organ.
Besides its immediate research objectives, the current project is optimised to provide me with training necessary to reach professional independence, complementing my interdisciplinary expertise in an innovative research field across different species and cognitive domains, and consolidating my project coordination, management and leadership abilities.
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