DescriptionIn this lecture, Professor Carl Petersen - Director of the EPFL Brain Mind Institute - will talk about the technological advances which now begin to make it possible to obtain a detailed mechanistic understanding of the neuronal circuits driving sensory perception. A key function of the brain is to interpret incoming sensory information allowing for learned associations to guide adaptive behavior. Sensory perception is a complex active process, and the precise neuronal circuits and causal mechanisms giving rise to percepts remain to be clearly defined for the mammalian brain. Technological advances in mouse genetics to define cell-types, in optogenetics to control neuronal activity and in electrophysiological and imaging techniques to precisely measure neuronal activity now begin to make it possible to obtain a detailed mechanistic understanding of the neuronal circuits driving sensory perception. Although we are very far from a complete understanding, we find evidence for cell-type-specific contributions of different neurons in both neocortex and striatum, which are likely to participate causally in both the learning and execution of sensory-perceptual decision-making tasks. Understanding the precise mechanisms underlying physiological brain function will help develop rational therapies for the many devastating brain disorders.
Carl Petersen is the Director of the EPFL Brain Mind Institute since 2019, intending to promote multidisciplinary quantitative research into neural structure, function, dysfunction, computation, and therapy through technological advances.He studied physics as a bachelor student at Oxford (1989-1992). During his Ph.D. studies under the supervision of Prof. Sir Michael Berridge in Cambridge (1992-1996), he investigated cellular and molecular mechanisms of calcium signaling. In his first postdoctoral period (1996-1998), he joined the laboratory of Prof. Roger Nicoll at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to investigate synaptic transmission and plasticity in the hippocampus. During a second postdoctoral period in the laboratory of Prof. Bert Sakmann at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg (1999-2003), he began working on the primary somatosensory barrel cortex, investigating cortical circuits and sensory processing. Carl Petersen joined the Brain Mind Institute of the Faculty of Life Sciences at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in 2003, setting up the Laboratory of Sensory Processing to investigate the functional operation of neuronal circuits in awake mice during quantified behavior.
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