Kinderuniversität Göttingen

Dajie und Peter Marschik: (University Medical Center Göttingen): Warum Babies strampeln und brabbeln
February 7, 2024, 5 PM, Lecture Hall 010, ZHG, Platz der Göttinger Sieben


Holger Rau (University of Göttingen): title tba
October 26, 2023, 3 PM, Michael-Lankeit-Lecture Hall, German Primate Center


Marlene R Cohen (University of Pittsburgh): Feature interference: a neuronal population hypothesis about limits on cognition
September 28, 2023, 12.30 PM, Lecture Hall West, German Primate Center; jointly organised with the Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition

Flexible cognition is a hallmark of human behavior, but it comes with limits. There are costs to paying attention to many things or switching between tasks. These costs become even more problematic in the many disorders of the brain that limit cognitive capacity. However, there is limited direct evidence of a physiological basis for these limitations. Identifying one will be important for efforts to repair or reduce limits on cognition. I will present multiple lines of evidence from monkey electrophysiology, human and monkey behavior, and recurrent network modeling suggesting a neuronal mechanism that inflicts a limit on cognition and a cost of flexibility. In a behavioral paradigm designed to measure and manipulate subjects’ belief about the relevance of each of two perceptual tasks, we found that humans and monkeys make less accurate perceptual decisions under task uncertainty. To generate hypotheses about a neuronal basis for the task switching cost, we compared two recurrent neural networks (RNNs), trained to produce the correct choice or to reproduce the choices of macaque subjects. The ‘correct-choice’ RNN learned to flexibly switch tasks without incurring a task switch cost, while the ‘monkey-choice’ RNN displayed the expected cost of task switching. Comparing the activity of the recurrent layers of the two models revealed that the ‘correct-choice’ model maintained information relevant to the two tasks in separate subspaces of neuronal activity. But when the task was uncertain, the two subspaces in the ‘monkey-choice’ model collapsed together, leading to interference between tasks. We confirmed predictions of the model in further behavioral and physiological experiments. These results provide a neuronal mechanism for flexible decision-making in neurotypical subjects, as well as its dysfunction in common neurological disorders. They support the general, tantalizing hypothesis that limits in cognitive capacity arise from interference between the neural representations of different stimuli, tasks, or memories.


Vivek H Sridhar (University of Konstanz): The evolutionary ecology of decision-making
September 14, 2023, 3 PM, Michael-Lankeit Lecture Hall, German Primate Center

Choosing among spatially distributed options is a central challenge for animals, from deciding among alternative potential food sources or refuges to choosing with whom to associate. Despite this, most studies have focused on the outcome of decisions (i.e., which option among alternatives is chosen), as well as the time taken to make decisions, but seldom on the movement of animals throughout the decision-making process. In this talk, I will present some of my past work where we discovered the algorithm used by the brain while choosing among options distributed in space. I will discuss why evolution seems to have found the same solution to decision-making across scales of biological organisation and the consequences this has for our understanding of movement and social influence in animal collectives. Finally, I will end by talking about some ongoing work where I study similar decision-making processes in the wild.

Past Events