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How body relevance drives brain organization

Project description

Exploring brain evolution for processing social stimuli

Human and non-human primates greatly depend on members of their own species to survive. Therefore, they spend a lot of time watching how these members behave in order to prepare adaptive social responses. The EU-funded RELEVANCE project intends to gain insight into how the brain evolved special structures to process highly relevant social stimuli. It also aims to show how social vision sustains adaptive behaviour. To achieve this, it will explore the visual processing of bodies and interactions mechanistically and computationally, and demonstrate how this processing sustains higher abilities such as understanding intention, action and emotion. The project will shed new light on social communication deficits in neuropsychiatry and propose novel hypotheses about their genetic basis.

Objective

Social species, and specifically human and nonhuman primates, rely heavily on conspecifics for survival. Considerable time is spent watching each other’s behavior because this is often the most relevant source of information for preparing adaptive social responses. The project RELEVANCE aims to understand how the brain evolved special structures to process highly relevant social stimuli like bodies and to reveal how social vision sustains adaptive behaviour.
This requires a novel way of thinking about biological information processing, currently among the brains’ most distinctive and least understood characteristic that accounts for the biggest difference between brains and computers.

The project will develop a mechanistic and computational understanding of the visual processing of bodies and interactions and show how this processing sustains higher abilities such as understanding intention, action and emotion. Relevance will accomplish this by integrating advanced methods from multiple disciplines: psychophysics and high-field functional imaging in combination with virtual reality and neural stimulation in humans; electrophysiology with optogenetics and laminar recordings in monkeys.
Crosstalk between
human and monkey methods will establish homologies between the species, revealing cornerstones of the theory. In a radical departure from current practice, we will develop novel deep neural network models that unify the data. These models will not only capture detailed mechanisms of neural processing of complex social stimuli and its dynamics, but also reproduce the modulation of brain activity during active behavior.

RELEVANCE will reveal novel ways of understanding and diagnosing social communication deficits in neuropsychiatry, and suggest novel hypotheses about their genetic basis. It will motivate novel principles and architectures for processing of socially relevant information in computer and robotic systems.

Host institution

KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN
Net EU contribution
€ 2 806 896,00
Address
OUDE MARKT 13
3000 Leuven
Belgium

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Region
Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 2 806 896,00

Beneficiaries (3)