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Perceptual and cognitive processing in the human and non-human primate brain

Research project P6/29 (Research action P6)

Persons :

Description :

Main objectives of this project are:

1. To study the visual system and its relationships with motor, memory and executive brain centers in human and non-human primates.

2. To support cognitive neuroscience in Belgium. Given the diversity of research themes in the different research groups, the project covers a range of topics, all however studied in humans or non-human primates: the visual system and its modification by attention and learning; memory and higher visual functions, control of actions (uni- and bimanual), cerebellum, sleep and memory consolidation, working memory and executive functions; quantitative and sequence processing, DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) and connectivity.
Solid links can be established between these topics for three reasons. First, the pilot group (KUL-N&P) studies medium- and high-level regions in the visual system of human and non-human primates. These regions include the output stages of the visual systems which interplay with other brain systems in a feedforward way (providing the processed visual signals for action observation or quantitative processing) but also in the opposite direction for all instances of control (attention, inhibition). Second, many topics imply investigations at multiple levels of processing, e.g. learning, bimanual coordination. Third, the pilot group had pioneered the development of awake monkey fMRI which is the obligate link between human imaging and invasive studies in the monkey. Its publication record demonstrates that at present KUL-N&P is the most productive group worldwide in awake monkey fMRI.

3. Collaborative experiments: these are based either on pooling of cognitive expertise in common human imaging studies or on linking human imaging with monkey studies addressing the same cognitive function/paradigm.

4. To give independence to young researchers: the pilot group and other groups are multi-PI and the collaborative experiments will be steered by all these independent researchers.

5. A new direction is the localization of functions for human imaging studies. We will get away from local maxima (as used in the program SPM, which can be a pact in a cortical region, a cortical region or a set of regions, e.g. LOC - lateral occipital cortex) and functional ROIs (which have no anatomical basis). We will follow the lead of monkey fMRI and attempt to define cortical regions to improve the anatomical aspect of the functional localization studies. We intend to produce new cortical maps (using Caret) onto which the results obtained in the different studies of the consortium will be pooled

6. Sharing technological developments: in vivo tractography, integration fMRI/EEG and functional connectivity.

7. To set up the imaging facilities as resources that will be accessible to other groups: especially the monkey imaging at KUL-N&P.


The consortium includes eight teams from six universities, including one from Italy. Many of these teams have worked together either in previous PAI networks or in European projects.


Work has been divided into six workpackages, which include twelve collaborative experiments or sets of experiments:

WP1: Perceptual, cognitive and motor learning (KUL-N&P, ULg, KUL-PAC, UG, UA).
This WP uses single cell recording, awake monkey and human fMRI to investigate the neuronal changes induced by low level and high level visual perceptual learning and compares visual, motor and cognitive learning.

WP2: Spatial attention (KUL-N&P, KUL-CNI, UNIPR, UMH).
This WP uses single cell recording, awake monkey and human fMRI to investigate the neuronal mechanism underlying spatial attention; it draws heavily on the newly developed microstimulation-in-the-magnet technique which not only serves to unravel frontal control in attention but also can serve as in vivo tractography method.

WP3: Controlled memory processes (ULg, KUL-CNI, KUL-PAC, UG).
This WP uses human imaging and behavioral techniques to explore and contrast different theories on controlled (attentional) process in working memory and prospective memory.

WP4: Action observation and motor planning (KUL-N&P, KUL-PAC, KUL-CNI, ULg, UA, UG, UNIPR).
This WP uses single cell recording, awake monkey and human fMRI to investigate action observation at the visual and premotor level, action execution, and higher order visuo-motor processing, including imitation learning and inhibition.

WP5: Mapping human cortical regions in the intraparietal sulcus (KUL-N&P, KUL-CNI, KUL-PAC, UG).
This WP uses human imaging to parcel the cortex in and around human intraparietal sulcus into cortical regions, drawing on visual tasks, quantitative tasks and probabilistic tractography.

WP6: Technological developments (KUL-N&P, KUL-CNI, ULg, UA, UMH, UNIPR).
This WP uses single cell recording, awake monkey and human fMRI, computational techniques to compare in vivo tractography with histological ground truth, to compute functional connectivity from multielectrode recordings, to investigate the neural substrate of sleep and that of adaptation.

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