Speaker: Prof. Dr. J. Julius Zhu
Department of Pharmacology, University of Virginia School of Medicine
Salience selection plays a key role in cortical attention-demanding processes, e.g., attentional, expectational, perceptual and working memory tasks. We have discovered that cortical pyramidal neurons that receive both modulatory and sensory inputs can use a coincidence detection mechanism to non-linearly amplify salient information. In addition, cortical inhibitory circuits may either inhibit or disinhibit this coincidence detection mechanism. Recently, simultaneous multiple patch-clamp recordings, optogenetics and genetically-encoded sensor-based imaging data indicate that the same salience selection mechanism, or neural computational module, is employed in different brain areas and regulated by the same neuromodulatory systems. Our findings suggest that cortical neurons, synapses, circuits and neuromodulatory systems work together to filter out “noise” in the incoming information and allow more attention to salient signals.