NVP Winter Conference Keynotes

Overview

Sonja Kotz

Title

'Little brain' but big contributions – reflections on cerebellar circuitry in action, perception, and cognition

Abstract

It is well established that cortico-cerebellar-cortical circuitry monitors motor behaviour, but recent evidence established that this circuitry similarly engages in the temporal encoding of basic and more complex (multi)sensory information. Consequently, cerebellar computations may generally apply to the temporal encoding of motor and basic and complex (multi)sensory information as (i) such information stimulates and monitors cortical information processing, and (ii) cerebellar-thalamic output might be a possible source of endogenous activity, predicting the outcome of cortical information processing and (iii) possibly providing a temporal frame for the binding of information. I will discuss our current conceptual thinking as well as empirical evidence in support of these considerations.

Biography

Prof. Sonja Kotz is a translational cognitive neuroscientist, investigating temporal, rhythmic, and formal predictions and control mechanisms in audition, music, and speech across the lifespan, in animal models, and patients (PD, stroke, tinnitus, psychosis, dyslexia). In her research she utilizes a wide range of behavioral and neuroimaging methods (M/EEG, s/f/rsMRI, TMS). She heads the Neuropsychology section at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University, The Netherlands and holds several honorary professorships (Manchester, Leipzig, and Lisbon). She is a senior/associate editor for Neuroimage, Cortex, Neurobiology of Language, PLoS One.

Christian Büchel

Title

How expectations and their violations shape perception

Abstract

Perception can be understood as the integration of peripheral input with an internal state of the organism governed by current (e.g. expectation) and past (e.g. experience) information. This process is implemented in the central nervous system comprising the spinal cord, brainstem and cerebral cortex. Recent advances in functional magnetic resonance imaging has allowed to investigate this system as a whole and enabling system level investigations in humans. This presentation will cover clinically relevant examples in pain and respiration. For instance, the phenomenon that asthma patients can experience an exacerbation of their symptoms when exposed to visual stimuli of relevant allergens (e.g. hay) can be seen as a clinically relevant nocebo effect. In the domain of pain studies have shown that expectations can both up- and down-regulate pain perception. The presentation will summarize EEG and fMRI results related to these placebo and nocebo effects, describe distinct neurobiological mechanisms and try to integrate these findings into an overarching framework.

Biography

Christian Büchel is a member of the Hamburg Center for Neuroscience, where he is also the Director of the Department for Systems Neuroscience at Hamburg University Medical Center. He holds an Affiliate Professor appointment in the Psychology department at the University of Hamburg. After Medical School at the University of Heidelberg, he performed postdoctoral research with prof. Karl Friston as a Wellcome Research Fellow at the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience at UCL in London with a focus on effective connectivity. Establishing his lab in Hamburg, he focused on the cognitive neuroscience of pain and motivation and initially studied decision making with an emphasis on delay discounting. In a parallel stream of projects he observed that the pain modulation underlying placebo analgesia can already be observed at the spinal cord level. A finding which he later also established for nocebo hyperalgesia. Christian is a member of the Academy of Science in Hamburg and was awarded the Jung Award for Medicine, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Preis by the German Research Foundation, and the Wiley Young Investigator Award of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping for recognition of his work in cognitive neuroscience.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Title

Adolescence is a sensitive period of social brain development

Abstract

Adolescence, defined as the period of life between 10 and 24 years, is characterised by heightened sensitivity to social information and need for interaction with peers. In the past two decades, neuroscience research has shown that the human brain develops substantially during adolescence. Areas of the social brain undergo significant reorganisation during adolescence, which might reflect a sensitive period for adapting to the social environment. Public health strategies imposed to reduce the spread of Covid-19, such as lockdowns, school closures and social distancing, have removed many sources of social connection from young people’s lives. Such measures might have an impact on adolescent development and mental health. The use of digital technologies and social media that allow young people to connect with friends virtually might mitigate some of the potentially harmful effects of social distancing and lockdowns. I will discuss the social dimension of the Covid-19 crisis for an age group for whom peer interaction is a vital aspect of development.

Biography

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, UK, and leader of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Group. Her group's research focuses on the development of social cognition and decision making in the human adolescent brain, and adolescent mental health. Her group runs behavioural studies in schools and in the lab, as well as neuroimaging studies, with adolescents and adults. Professor Blakemore is Chair of the Royal Society of Biology Education and Science Policy Committee. She is an editor at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and on the advisory board of the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. She has been awarded national and international prizes for her research including the Young Mind & Brain Prize 2013, the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award 2013, the Klaus J Jacobs Prize 2015, the BPS Presidents' Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, the British Academy and the Association of Psychological Science.

Prof. Blakemore’s public engagement activities include a play, Brainstorm, written and performed by teenagers and shown at the National Theatre in London, and a TED talk at TEDGlobal 2012. Her first solo book, Inventing Ourselves: the secret life of the teenage brain, was published in 2018 and was awarded the Royal Society Book Prize 2018 and the British Psychological Society Book Prize 2020.