Training Program in Multisensory Neuroscience
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.
Training Grant Faculty
- Robert Coghill
- Christos Constantinidis
- Dwayne Godwin
- Ashok Hegde
- John McHaffie
- David Riddle
- Benjamin Rowland
- Emilio Salinas
- Terrence Stanford
- Barry Stein
- Ryan Miller
Project title: “Multisensory integration across distributed brain regions”
Dark rearing precludes visual-nonvisual experience and hence the brain’s ability to establish visual-nonvisual integration abilities. This is evident in single neurons in the cat midbrain (superior colliculus) and cortex (the anterior ectosylvian sulcus). Ryan is using this paradigm to determine how these regions acquire this capability during adulthood, and comparing their relative plasticity in this context.
- David Klorig
Project title: “Optogenetic modulation of sensory feedback”
Reciprocally connected inter-area projection systems comprise the communication networks of the brain and are important for the coordination of oscillatory activity and integration of information across the brain. Despite extensive study, the functional roles of these projection systems are not well understood. In a set of experiments nearing completion, David studied the functional influence of corticothalamic feedback projections on the activity of cells in the primary visual thalamic nucleus, the lateral geniculate (LGN), in chronically implanted rats.
- 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.
- Leslie Keniston
Project title: “Reinforcement conditioning on multisensory reponses”
Les has developed application hardware & wrote software for implementation of the conditioning paradigms in order to assess the role of reinforcement and learning on multisensory processes. He is studying the chronic effects of conditioning as well as explored the potential effects of on-line reinforcement conditioning.
- Jonathan Day-Brown
Project title: “Multisensory processes in conditioned fear”
Post traumatic stress disorder is an important challenge of veterans returning from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Traumatic events may take many forms, making it important to determine the underlying neural mechanisms by which fearful stimuli are processed. Jon has recorded from several nuclei, both sensory and affective, of awake, freely, moving rodents during the presentation of fearful stimuli. Using a unique approach to fear conditioning, which employs visual and auditory cues coupled with a stability disruption (the recording chamber rapidly tilts during the experimental procedure), Dr. Day-Brown will assess the role played by sensory information of various modalities, while preserving the basic tenets of conditioned learning.