ICON 2014

Tuesday 29 July 2014

SYMPOSIUM 07:  Understanding High-Level Vision, Attention And Decision Making By Means Of Frequency-Tagging EEG

Periodic visual stimulation leads to periodic brain responses measured by the electroencephalogram (EEG), the so-called “steady-state visual evoked potentials” (SSVEPs, Regan, 1966). This approach has many advantages over other cognitive neuroscience methods, in particular its objectivity (i.e., the signal is measured at a frequency known by the experimenter), its high signal-to-noise ratio, and the possibility to record from different visual stimuli presented concurrently (“frequency-tagging”). Yet, this approach remains underestimated in cognitive neuroscience, having been so far essentially confined to the study of low-level visual stimuli. The four speakers of this symposium (Mattingley, Rossion, van Swinderen, and O’Connell) have all performed a series of independent studies using the frequency-tagging EEG technique over recent years. Their presentations will illustrate how this approach can capture various key aspects of visual perception (including perceptual integration), selective attention and perceptual decision making, both in healthy humans and clinical populations as well in the simplest animal brains such as bees and flies.

Presenters include:
Bruno Rossion, University of Louvain, Belgium
Professor Jason Mattingley, University of Queensland, Australia
Bruno van Swinderen, Queensland Brain Institute, Australia
Redmond O'Connell, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

SYMPOSIUM 08:  The Dynamic Brain

Studying the dynamics of brain activity is fundamental to a deeper understanding of its core computational mechanisms. Modelling and simulating the dynamics of large-scale brain activity is a rapidly emerging neuroscience field that promises a more principled way of interpreting brain imaging data and inferring the relationship between cognition and brain function. More, such “in silico” experiments allow systematic exploration of physiological parameters in a manner that is not otherwise possible: This approach lies at the heart of the enormous European-based Brain project. Our symposium will present four contributions that cover the range of brain network dynamics by emerging and leading international researchers. In particular, we will present cutting edge work that the role of brain network structure plays in shaping cortical dynamics during perceptual and cognitive activities. Together, these talks will cover synchronization in microcircuits, thalamocortical processes that underlie the processing of visual stimuli, stochastic dynamics during decision making, and the origin of slow fluctuations related to mood and affect in deep midline cortical regions. These talks will be of interest to computational neuroscientists, neuroimaging researchers as well as cognitive neuroscientists interested in the modelling activities that are in the process of transforming the field.

Presenters include:
Claudio R. Mirasso, Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems, Spain
Luis M. Martinez, Institute of Neuroscience, Alicante, Spain
Leonardo L. Gollo, Queensland Institute for Medical Research, Australia
Michael Breakspear, Queensland Institute for Medical Research, Australia

SYMPOSIUM 09:  New Approaches To The Neural Basis Of Mathematical Cognition

Numeracy attainment has a substantial economic, cultural, social and personal impact. Educational efforts to address this problem have met with limited success, in part because the core neuro-biology of numeracy remains only partly characterized, mainly on grey matter regions activated in very simple number tasks using PET and fMRI. Here we present methodologies for examining the core neuro-biology that haven’t previously been deployed. They reveal new aspects of the functional and anatomical organization of mathematical cognition and their genetic basis.

Presenters include:
Chris Clark, University College London, UK
Carlo Semenza, University of Padua, Italy
Teresa Iuculano, Stanford University, USA
Brian Butterworth, University College London, UK


SYMPOSIUM 10:  TMS And TDCS As A Tool In Cognitive Neuroscience: How Does Transcranial Stimulation Influence Behavior?

Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) has become a popular method for inducing reversible brain lesions in normal subjects. If such a "virtual lesion" impairs task performance, it is concluded that the “lesioned” region makes a critical contribution to the cognitive processes that are probed by the task. There is a mismatch between the widespread use of NIBS in cognitive neuroscience and the rudimentary knowledge regarding the mechanisms by which NIBS disrupts brain function. The objective of this symposium is to focus on the neural processes underlying a NIBS-induced “virtual lesion”. Vincent Walsh will set the frame by highlighting methodological and theoretical limitations of the virtual lesion approach. Michael Nitsche will discuss the use of low-intensity transcranial electrical stimulation as a tool to manipulate neural excitability and intrinsic neural oscillations and how this relates to stimulation-induced changes in behavior. Carlo Miniussi will provide a “noisy account” on the virtual lesion approach and discuss how NIBS influences brain functions by altering regional noise levels. Hartwig Siebner will adopt a connectionists view on the virtual lesion approach and show that changes in effective connectivity in specific pathways of the stimulated network may account for the absence or presence of NIBS-induced “virtual lesion effects.

Presenters include:
Michael A. Nitsche, University Medical Center Goettingen, Germany
Carlo Miniussi, University of Brescia & IRCCS Centro San
Giovanni di Dio, Fatebenefratelli, Italy
Hartwig R. Siebner, Copenhagen University Hospital Hvidovre, Denmark


SYMPOSIUM 11:  The Menzies Foundation Symposium: A Window Into Normal Cognition: Insights From Synaesthesia

The phenomenon of synaesthesia, in which a stimulus elicits an unusual additional experience (e.g., a sound elicits a colour), has generated an enormous amount of interest over the past decade. Contemporary cognitive neuroscience methods and novel manipulations of classic measures of behaviour have given insights into the mechanisms that underpin this fascinating phenomenon. In this symposium, the speakers will present recent research on the integration of information across the senses in both synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes, with a focus on the role of conceptual information and the insights we can gain from synaesthesia into cognitive representation of multisensory information. This includes looking at the relationship of synaesthetic binding (e.g., ‘A’ and ‘red’) with the way we represent object features more generally (e.g., a banana being yellow), and the implicit cross-modal mappings we all share in both sensory (e.g., correspondences between pitch and brightness) and conceptual (e.g., sound symbolism) domains. Overall, the goal of the symposium is to promote active debate into the role conceptual information plays in synaesthesia and the inferences we can draw from synaesthetic research to fundamental mechanisms and concepts that underpin the human cognitive system.

Presenters include:

David Brang, University of Chicago, USA
Katie Bankieris, University of Rochester, USA
Derek Arnold, University of Queensland, Australia
Anina N. Rich, Macquarie University, Australia


SYMPOSIUM 12:  Working Memory 2014: 40 Years On Since Baddeley & Hitch

Since it’s theoretical formalisation in 1974, working memory (WM) has been a consistently intensive area of research, generating much debate at psychological and neuroscientific levels. Recently this has centred on the precise placement of WM in relation to other cognitive constructs; it appears to share many operations with attention and long-term memory and is not necessarily an independent short-term retention system. Here we outline the new wave of WM research focussed on understanding the ‘place’ of WM. Using a variety of research techniques including patient lesion studies, fMRI, TMS (including concurrent TMS-fMRI) and MEG, we have evidence towards an updated theoretical and neural conceptualisation of WM. First, we describe the attention-dependent dynamic nature of information retention in sensory cortex (Zokaei). Next, the necessity of hippocampus for binding WM items will be shown (Pertzov). A mechanistic model of alpha-gamma oscillations for controlling information flow in WM, and accompanying empirical evidence, will then be provided (Bonnefond). Finally, these findings will be brought together in an up-to-date account of WM with focus on effective combinations of cutting-edge neuroscience techniques, and theoretical and computational models, that can make valuable contributions for the formulation of sophisticated accounts of how the brain solves WM (Feredoes).

Presenters include:
Nahid Zokaei, University of Oxford, UK
Eva Feredoes, University of Reading, UK
Mathilde Bonnefond, Radboud University, Netherlands
Yoni Pertzov, Hebrew University, Jerusalem


PANEL DISCUSSION 02:  How Do We Improve Medical Translation? Developing Translational Approaches Towards Exploring Cognitive And Behavioural Endophenotypes In Animal Models Of Disease

Impairments in cognition are common to many brain diseases and represent a major unmet medical need. As a result of human genetic studies there is an increasing recognition that many human disorders of cognition are caused by underlying mutations. The identification of these mutations and the availability of animal models carrying mutations in orthologous genes place mutant mice at the forefront of translational approaches. For over 20 years mice carrying gene mutations have been studied in learning paradigms such as the water maze and fear conditioning and these rodent behaviours said to be similar to human behaviour and mutant mice showing phenotypes in these behaviours have been promoted as models of human disease. Moreover, drugs have been tested on mutant mice in rodent behavioural tests and led to human clinical trials. While this approach may seem logical, if the behaviours measured in mice are not homologous to those in humans, then drug trials may potentially be misleading. A way forward is to critically assess the behaviours measured in rodents that model those symptoms observed in patients. Recent advancements in technologies such as touchscreen cognitive tests that measure similar components of cognition in mice and humans can be combined with genetics and provide a powerful tool for translation, identification of new targets for drug development and improve drug trial design (Nithianantharajah et al., 2013: Nithianantharajah & Grant, 2013). In a complimentary way, this panel discussion will bring together research experts (Dr. Jess Nithianantharajah, A/Prof. Anthony Hannan & Dr. Caitlin McOmish) in cognitive and behavioural analysis of animal models of cognitive diseases to discuss the current stance, future directions for effective translation from animal models of disease to the clinic and the potential pitfalls and solutions in existing translational approaches that rely on rodent behavioural testing. It will also discuss genetic, environmental and pharmacological factors in disease modelling and how technologies including the touchscreen cognitive testing can pave for future medical translation. Elucidating common disease symptoms/mechanisms that underlie cognitive disorders and developing methods to improve how these can be modelled in animals will be essential for increasing our understanding of cognitive dysfunction in brain disorders and future development of novel therapeutic approaches. Nithianantharajah et al., 2013. Synaptic scaffold evolution generated components of vertebrate cognitive complexity. Nat Neurosci. 16, 16-24. Nithianantharajah & Grant 2013. Cognitive components in mice and humans: combining genetics and touchscreens for medical translation. Neurobiol Learn & Mem. 105, 13-9.

Presenters include:
Jess Nithianantharajah, University of Edinburgh, UK
Anthony J Hannan, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Australia
Caitlin E McOmish, Columbia University Medical Center, USA