Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Wake Forest University


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Training Program in Multisensory Processes

Description

Despite traditional emphasis on individual senses, there is growing appreciation that brains are inherently multisensory and growing evidence that anomalies of multisensory integration contribute to a host of developmental and age-related disorders. These include dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, and autism. Multisensory therapeutic regimens may better ameliorate the sensory deficits associated with acute brain trauma (e.g., neglect following stroke), and training programs emphasizing interactions among senses are essential to promote a better understanding of the debilitating effects of disease and the strategies necessary to ameliorate them.

The training program in Multisensory Neuroscience is designed to meet the needs of an emerging discipline exploring the inherent similarities and distinctions among sensory systems. While this is a compelling problem, this rapidly growing discipline of multisensory integration has a paucity of formal training opportunities – we offer a unique environment in which to meet this need at both the pre- and postdoctoral levels. Though its curriculum incorporates traditional topics relating to the development, organization, and perception/behavior derived from sensory processing in the different senses, the training program uniquely emphasizes the way in which sensory systems interact to markedly enhance or degrade the physiological salience of external events. Our faculty members are bound together by a common interest in the senses and expertise in multisensory integration. Students in Neurobiology and Anatomy and the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience are eligible, as are eligible postdoctoral fellows.

The training program offers a singular experience in topics such as neuropharmacology, electrophysiology, modern neuroanatomy and immunohistochemistry, computational neuroscience, development, cognition, psychophysics, behavior, and hands-on experience with a variety of laboratory techniques. We address these in the context of how individual sensory modalities process sensory information and the mechanisms that underlie their synergistic function. Students rotate through laboratories to gain in-depth experience in several sensory systems, but also have mini-courses to give them practical experience in techniques beyond those they may use for a current research project. All students and faculty participate in a seminar series and journal club that is topic-keyed to the core courses in Sensory Neuroscience, ensuring continuing broad intellectual and collegial interactions. Students are exposed to training opportunities and experts that offer advice regarding career paths in addition to traditional tenure-track academic positions.

Recognizing the societal need for a diverse biomedical workforce, a major focus for the training program continues to be the recruitment of underrepresented minorities.

Project Leader

Training Grant Faculty

Postdoctoral Trainees

  • Gabriela Costello-Grinberg

    Project title: “Perceptual components of decision making involving subcortical structures”

    Gabriella is currently testing several key predictions about how the timing and certainty of perceptual decisions are represented in FEF activity. Specifically, testing the hypothesis that changes in perceptual processing speed are manifested as changes in the behavior (by changing the slope of the tachometric curve) and in the acceleration of the frontal eye field oculomotor activity associated with a saccadic choice. The next step is testing this hypothesis in the Superior Colliculus, a prominent multisensory area. 

  • Fumi Katsuki

    Project title: “Multisensory Integration in Decision Making” 

    My current work examines the way in which neural activity in the primate prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices represents multisensory-based perceptual decisions.

  • David Stone

    Project title: “Plasticity in the temporal principle of multisensory integration” 

    My work involves electrophysiological recording from superior colliculus during presentations of auditory and visual stimuli and examining how responses to the timing of these presentations are altered by experience.

Predoctoral Trainees

  • Chris Hauser

    Project title: “Behavioral and Neural Correlates of Multi-Feature Integration”

    My thesis project examines the neural basis of multi-feature/multi-sensory integration, perceptual decision-making, and motor choice as manifest in the superior colliculus of the nonhuman primate.