Danique Jeurissen, Ph.D.

Columbia University

Danique Jeurissen is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Michael Shadlen at Columbia University. She collaborates with Doris Tsao at the California Institute of Technology. She studied biological psychology at Maastricht University (the Netherlands) and the University of California, Los Angeles, for her B.S. degree. For her M.S. degree in cognitive neuroscience, she studied at Maastricht University and was a research intern at Harvard Medical School. She did a research internship at the University of California, San Diego, before starting her Ph.D research in Amsterdam. During her Ph.D. at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, she worked with Pieter Roelfsema to study the neural basis of object perception in the primate visual system. Jeurissen is interested in studying cognitive functions such as perception, memory, decision making and forming associations. She uses behavioral measurements, fMRI and electrophysiology to study higher cognitive functions in the primate brain.



“Flexible routing of information through specialized networks in the brain”

The simplest model of brain function is that incoming sensory input is processed, decisions are made and an appropriate motor response is selected. The simplicity of this flow of information, however, belies the underlying complexity to carry it out. Because sensory neurons are not directly connected to motor neurons, multiple interposed brain areas—loosely termed “association areas”—must flexibly route sensory information to inform decisions and ultimately select an action in a constantly changing world. While sensory and motor processing have long been studied in isolation, comparatively little is known about how these systems interact in the brain—the essence of cognition. We propose to study this problem in a well-defined task in monkeys. The monkey will have to learn to associate a motor output in this case, and rapid movement of the eye’s gaze, termed a “saccade,” to a sensory input, in this case a picture of another monkey’s face. The monkey will learn to recognize one monkey’s face and saccade to the left, and recognize another monkey’s face and saccade to the right. This setup requires the monkey to flexibly route different sensory information to different motor outputs in real time. Meanwhile, we will image the whole brain using functional magnetic resonance imagining, or fMRI, to identify candidate brain regions involved. By incorporating electrical micro-stimulation with fMRI, we can also infer how functional connectivity changes among brain regions during the task. Armed with this knowledge, we can then directly record the electrical activity of individual neurons to explore the fine-scale exchange of information between these areas. Because visual processing, facial recognition and eye movements are well understood, our research will build on that knowledge to explore how flexible information routing allows the brain to connect on a global scale in real time. Flexible decision-making comes easily to most of us, but that flexibility can be challenging to individuals with certain brain disorders, such as autism, who often stick to fixed action patterns and behaviors. By understanding how global, flexible decision-making occurs in the healthy primate brain, we hope to shed light on how these processes break down during disease.

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