Neural Engineering Seminar: Reading and writing the neural code: initial steps towards enhancing perception and cognition using brain-machine interfaces
Sensory signals, such as light, sound, and skin deformation, are transduced to neural electrical impulses, or spikes, at the periphery, and these spikes are subsequently transmitted to the neocortex through the sensory pathways, ultimately forming perception of the sensory world. Sensory processing along these pathways is heavily dependent upon both the external stimulus statistics and internal brain state. Therefore, to restore and enhance brain sensory functions using brain-machine interfaces, we will need to not only understand how the information is dynamically encoded by populations of neurons, but also how to devise strategies to optimize brain state. My talk will first use sensory adaptation as an example to demonstrate that the sensory pathway adaptively changes the neural code based on the properties of sensory stimuli. Sensory adaptation strongly shaped thalamic synchrony and dictated the window of integration of the recipient cortical targets, effectively switching the nature of what information about the outside world is being conveyed to cortex. Second, I will discuss how to control the activity of the locus coeruleus - norepinephrine (LC-NE) system, a major neuromodulatory system that controls brain state, to enhance sensory processing.