In order to remember specific events and find our goals the brain has to solve specific computational problems. The goal of the course is to illustrate how the neuronal activity in a brain region called hippocampus (e.g., place cells and grid cells; neurons encoding an abstract variable, the spatial location of the animals or humans) can be identified with specific steps in solving the problem of memory or navigation. The course will start by introducing students to the cellular basis of neuronal excitability (action potentials) and feature selectivity. We will use the example of place cells to illustrate the role of plasticity in learning to be active selectively at certain locations, an essential process in creating new memories. Next we will investigate the functional neuroanatomy of the hippocampus, emphasizing the role different types of neuronal networks in the process of memory storage and recall. Finally, we will discuss the relationship between navigation and memory and see examples of how the place cells and grid cell are involved in route planning and path integration. Student will have the opportunity to run model simulations or analyze experimental data recorded from rodents during navigation experiments. Student projects can be either practical, demonstrating programming skills, or theoretical, showing the ability to read and interpret research papers with the help of the teacher. Formation of teams composed of students with complementary skills is encouraged. The course is designed for students interested in understanding the nervous system willing to take a more quantitative approach – so students with interest in programming, mathematics, physics or engineering are also encouraged to participate.
Module Leader:Balázs Ujfalussy