Neuronal Principles Underlying Flexible Behaviour

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP


When confronted with new choices, memories can guide decisions. Generalising and integrating information across events enables quick inferences that go beyond previous experience. This process requires a representation of knowledge in the brain that facilitates rapid computations. It has been suggested that storing information in cognitive maps - map-like mental representations of concepts used for orientation within an environment - might support such flexible behaviour. However, how these maps are represented in the brain and help to guide behaviour remains poorly understood. In my doctoral project, I aim to contribute to the understanding of this neuronal process. Firstly, I will develop a rodents' behavioural paradigm that allows for a clear readout of the sets of information currently relevant, in a controlled environment. Then, I will use this task to obtain recordings of neuronal activity from brain regions reported to be involved in cognitive maps representations and implicated in decision-making and navigation processes, in awake behaving animals. A better understanding of the emergence and organisation of cognitive maps, and the relative contribution of different brain regions to these processes is essential to achieving a multi-level understanding of how the brain represents information and we make decisions when confronted with new problems.

BBRSC research priority areas addressed in the proposed research project:
Brain Science and Mental Health
Understanding the brain is one of the greatest intellectual challenges of our time. The potential impact such understanding would have on preventing and treating nervous system disorders makes it a challenge worth taking on. Through the brain science programme researchers are working to understand more about how the normal brain and the senses work, as well as what goes wrong and why.
Advanced in vivo (whole animal) techniques
A major component of the work involves developing and applying sophisticated physiological, immunological, pharmacological, behavioural observation or experimentation in whole, living protected animals (as defined in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986) in order to understand normal and abnormal biological/psychological mechanisms.



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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011224/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1757790 Studentship BB/M011224/1 01/10/2016 01/07/2021 Ines Victoria Barreiros