Rapid Parallel Configuration of Visual Information Processing

In September 2010, the "Bernstein Preis für Computational Neuroscience", funded by the BMBF (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung), was awarded to Udo Ernst. The corresponding research group started in March 2012. In Bremen, our group closely collaborates with the lab for Theoretical Neurophysics (Prof. Dr. Klaus Pawelzik), the lab for Theoretical Neurobiology (Prof. Dr. Andreas Kreiter), and the lab for Human Neurobiology (Prof. Dr. Manfred Fahle).

Information processing in the brain is highly flexible and depends on various factors such as the current behavioural task, contextual information in the subjects’ environment, and internal states of the brain. This flexibility allows our brain to rapidly configure different cognitive functions as required by the actual situation, and to reallocate limited neuronal resources to the most important computational processes. Our project aims at a comprehensive understanding of the neural mechanisms and cognitive strategies supporting functional configuration and task switching.

Theoretical investigations (subprojects A1 and A2) are combined with electrophysiological recordings (subproject B) and psychophysical studies (subproject C) to reveal the fundamental properties of rapid parallel configuration in the visual system of humans and primates. Theoretical work pursues two different approaches: investigating neural mechanisms of functional configuration from a dynamical system’s perspective in a typical bottom-up approach (A1), and uncovering principles of flexible computation within the framework of generative models in a top-down approach (A2). Models are constrained by experimental data from the neuronal up to the behavioural level, and predictions from large-scale simulations of cortical networks are tested in novel experimental paradigms. Ultimately, our investigations will reveal novel computational strategies how complex tasks can be performed with limited, but adaptable resources. Putative applications range from high-performance brain-computer interfaces up to novel rehabilitation strategies for patients with cognitive deficits. These applications are explored with partner labs in Bremen and Germany.