Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain Pledges New Funds to Explore How Brain Regions Interact

The grants bring to the collaboration new investigators studying how populations of neurons in different parts of the brain communicate.

In October, the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain (SCGB) launched a new set of pilot awards. The grants, totaling $3 million per year, will focus on a major unanswered question in neuroscience: How do different brain regions work together in distributed networks to produce cognition?

Murthy lab

Since its inception in 2014, the SCGB has focused on the measurement, analysis and modeling of neural coding and dynamics during behavior. SCGB investigators have combined large-scale recording with advanced statistical analysis methods to make significant strides in interpreting the brain’s complex codes. They have demonstrated, for example, how studying neural activity in high dimensions can provide new insight into the principles of neural computation. The new awards will build on these advances to examine coding and dynamics across the brain.

In the past, technical limitations forced most research efforts to focus on individual brain regions or a few cells in different regions. But new technologies that can simultaneously record from hundreds to thousands of neurons in multiple brain areas make it possible to track information much more broadly. In parallel, theorists and computational neuroscientists are developing new theory and analysis methods focused on larger-scale distributed computation. Detailed connectomics datasets help constrain new models with real-world information on how different networks are wired.

“SCGB’s new pilot projects will bring together advances in recording, distributed computing and connectomics to investigate the general principles of global activity across multiple brain regions,” says David Tank, SCGB’s director.

For example, one team will combine a novel recording approach and multi-region recurrent neural network models to understand how brainwide neural activity predicts how an animal responds to adversity — with resilience or hopelessness? Another project will explore how the complete wiring diagram of the fruit fly brain gives rise to brainwide patterns of activity that shape a social interaction. A list of all SCGB projects and investigators can be found here.

The grants will last two years and are awarded to investigators not currently in the SCGB. Some existing SCGB investigators will collaborate on the new projects without receiving additional funding.

Some existing SCGB projects have already made progress in exploring inter-area communication, examining, for example, how brain regions share some information and keep some private and how correlated activity changes with internal states, such as attention. For more on SCGB research, visit our news page.


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