The Department of Cognitive Sciences presents

"Influence of Neuromodulation on Attention and Learning – Modeling and Robotic Studies"
with Nicolas Oros, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, Irvine

Wednesday October 2, 2013
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway (SBSG), Room 1517

Learning to ignore irrelevant stimuli is essential to achieving efficient and fluid attention, and serves as the complement to increasing attention to relevant stimuli. The different cholinergic (ACh) sub-systems within the basal forebrain regulate attention in distinct, but complementary ways. ACh projections from the substantia innominata / nucleus basalis region (SI/nBM) to the neocortex are necessary to increase attention to relevant stimuli and have been well studied. Lesser known are ACh projections from the medial septum / vertical limb of the diagonal band (MS/VDB) to the hippocampus and the cingulate that are necessary to reduce attention to irrelevant stimuli. Oros developed a neural simulation to provide insight into how ACh can decrement attention using this distinct pathway from the MS/VDB. He tested the model in behavioral paradigms that require decremental attention. The model exhibits behavioral effects such as associative learning, latent inhibition, and persisting behavior. Lesioning the MS/VDB disrupts latent inhibition, and drastically increases perseverative behavior. Taken together, the model demonstrates that the ACh decremental pathway is necessary for appropriate learning and attention under dynamic circumstances and suggests a canonical neural architecture for decrementing attention. The model was then modified to include the SI/nBM as well as VTA dopaminergic neurons, and was successfully implemented in a robot using a newly developed robotic platform that leverages Smartphone technology. The robot performed a reversal-learning task based on GPS locations, and was entirely controlled by the model using the compass and GPS of an Android phone. In this talk, Oros will discuss the insights from this research, as well as current and future areas of study.

For further information, please contact Clara Schultheiss, or 949-824-7569.


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