Sunday, April 14, 9:00 – 10:00am, Grand Ballroom
A new look at gating: selective integration of sensory signals through network dynamics
Speaker: William Newsome1; 1HHMI and Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University
A hallmark of decision-making in primates is contextual sensitivity: a given stimulus can lead to different decisions depending on the context in which it is presented. This kind of flexible decision-making depends critically upon gating and integration of context-appropriate information sources within the brain. We have analyzed neural mechanisms underlying gating and integration in animals trained to perform a context-sensitive decision task. Surprisingly, both relevant and irrelevant sensory signals are present within frontal lobe circuits that form decisions, implying that gating occurs very late in the process. Dynamical systems analysis of the neural data, combined with a dynamical recurrent network model, suggests a novel mechanism in which gating and integration are combined in a single process.
Monday, April 15, 9:00 – 10:00am, Grand Ballroom
The Human Language Puzzle: Advancing Theory Through Brain Science
Speaker: Patricia K. Kuhl, Ph.D1; 1Co-Director, Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences Director, NSF Science of Learning Center (The LIFE Center) University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Debate on the origins of humans’ capacity for language has engaged philosophers, neuroscientists, and biologists, and more recently engineers and computer scientists who want to create technologies that enhance language learning. In this talk, I will show how co-registration of MRI, DTI, and Magnetoencephalography (MEG) in young infants is revising traditional views on the brain mechanisms underlying human language. I will describe a theoretical model that addresses the initial state of language learning as well as the role of input in modifying that state. The main tenet is that in early language learning children’s statistical learning and computational skills are ‘gated’ by the social brain. This model has led to the discovery of linguistic biomarkers that may allow early diagnosis of disabilities such as autism.
Tuesday, April 16, 9:00 – 10:00am, Grand Ballroom
Emotion and Survival
Speaker: Joseph LeDoux1; 1Center for Neural Science, NYU,
Emotional Brain Institute @ NYU & Nathan Kline Institute
The capacity to detect and respond to threats is an ancient survival mechanism, and predates, evolutionarily speaking, the capacity to have conscious emotional experiences. Circuits that detect and respond to threats are not fear circuits, not emotion circuits. In those organisms that have evolved the capacity to be aware of their environment and their internal physiological states, the feeling of fear can be experienced while the brain and body are responding to a threat. But the capacity to respond to threats is not the same as the capacity to consciously experience fear when well-being is threatened. Hard-wired survival circuits are often mistakenly described as emotion circuits. But these did not evolve to make emotions. They exist to keep animals alive and well.