ABC grant awarded to Carien Lansink and Heleen Slagter
Dr Carien Lansink of the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences and Dr Heleen Slagter (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences) have been awarded a research grant of €250,000.- by the Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Center (ABC) for their research project ‘The role of dopamine in visual awareness’.
Several influential theories propose that awareness is related to the ‘broadcasting’ of sensory information to the whole brain. But what determines whether an external stimulus ignites such a global response and becomes a 'content' we are conscious of and can report on? In this research Slagter and Lansink, together with Prof. Anil Seth (University of Sussex), test the hypothesis that the neurotransmitter dopamine enhances the detection of visual stimuli and thereby releases the inhibition on the broadcasting of information to the brain. In this way, dopamine may govern selection of sensory information for conscious representation.
The aim of the research is to establish the causal relationship between striatal dopamine and visual awareness and to gain insight into the underlying neural network dynamics. The results of this research contribute to the understanding of awareness and the mechanisms that may underlie disorders that are characterized by disturbed awareness, such as schizophrenia.