Principles of sensory processing in the whisker system
Our senses sample a huge stream of ongoing information from the world. To make sense of this information and detect what is of interest, the brain adjusts to the spatial and temporal patterns present in the environment, and extracts noteworthy, novel or surprising aspects.
When we face a scene – objects moving, people speaking to us – this ability of neurons to adjust their responses allows us to detect what is going on seamlessly and on a one-shot basis. Temporal patterns in the stimulus are essential cues; the brain’s responses reflect the interplay between those cues and our internal state.
Our research group investigates the computations that underlie these spectacular abilities of the brain. To do so, we study the responses of neurons that process tactile information in the rodent whisker pathway – a key sensory system for rodent behaviour, used for navigating and for detecting and identifying objects. We use experimentation and computational analyses to try to identify the principles underlying the sensation of time-varying stimuli, and to show how those principles are implemented biologically.
Our research is supported by the UK Medical Research Council.
*We are currently interested in sponsoring outstanding candidates for independent postdoctoral fellowships. Please contact Miguel Maravall if you would like to discuss this.*