NIH Broad Challenge Area 15 - Translational Science NIMH Specific Challenge Topic 15-MH-109 - Prefrontal cortex regulation of higher brain function and complex behaviors. Abstraction is the ability to detect and store the commonalities across experiences while ignoring irrelevant details. It is a critical cognitive function because imbues the world with meaning and orders thought by endowing generalization and prediction. Without this crucial faculty, experiences would be fragmented and unrelated. Sensory inputs would seem strange and unfamiliar because they differ in appearance from previous experience. In other words, we would have the disordered thought of schizophrenics or the inability to generalize seen in autistics. While a variety of recent studies have examined the distribution and other properties of neural correlates across a range of brain areas, these studies have all examined categories that were already familiar to the animal. Virtually nothing is known about how and where the brain acquires new categories. Our laboratory will do so by using a test of category learning widely employed in humans and by using our unique approach of recording from many electrodes simultaneously in different areas of the monkey brain. By recording from three brain areas known to play a role in categorization (the prefrontal cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and basal ganglia), we will determine the how and where of how categories are learned, such as where they first arise, how they are formed from learning about individual exemplars. We will test the hypothesis that new, arbitrary categories are first acquired by the prefrontal cortex and the hypothesis that the prefrontal cortex forms categories by putting together exemplars learned by the striatum. This will help aid the U.S. economic recovery in several ways. The funds will be used to retain employment of scientific personnel and will also aid the economy via increased part-time labor for the manufacturing of microdrives and corresponding purchases of supplies from U.S. based companies. Our lab has been acutely impacted by the current economic crisis. We suddenly lost a source of funding when The Picower Foundation collapsed in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandal. The funds will also be used to retain the services of a postdoctoral fellow who will otherwise have to be laid off this summer due to this loss of funding. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have (and will continue to) freely share our microdrive design and methodology with other laboratories, several of which have adopted our system. Thus, the economic (and scientific) results of our supplement are likely to be """"""""viral"""""""", inspiring others to adopt multiple-electrode technology and thus make similar purchases.
We will use multiple-electrode technology to determine the functional circuitry of category learning in the monkey brain. By recording from multiple brain areas simultaneously, we will determine where, when, and how categories are acquired by the brain.
|Antzoulatos, Evan G; Miller, Earl K (2011) Differences between neural activity in prefrontal cortex and striatum during learning of novel abstract categories. Neuron 71:243-9|