Cerebral Cortex Research Group
Our group aims to better understand the processes of learning and memory.
Our work is aimed at finding and discovering previously unknown subcortical brain regions or unknown cell populations that influence these processes. We are trying to understand the role of these connections in behaviour, to decipher which neurotransmitters and receptors shape the communication between cells. We are also trying to build computational neuroscience models to better understand these networks.
Our group is led by Prof. Gabor Nyiri and has two subgroups: an experimental brain research laboratory led by Gábor Nyiri and a modelling laboratory led by Szabolcs Káli.
Neural Representation Research Laboratory (Gabor Nyiri)
Encoding, recalling and, when necessary, effectively forgetting memories, and especially negative memories, is essential for survival. Malfunctioning of these memory processes can lead to mental problems, cognitive deficits or dementia. Our group's work is primarily focused on finding and discovering previously unknown subcortical brain areas or unknown cell populations that influence these processes. Our goal is to understand the role of these pathways in behavior and to decipher which neurotransmitters and receptors shape the communication between cells.
It has long been known that to record our memories, information packets from our sensory organs are first processed in the brain and then, after processing, transmitted to several cortical areas that organise and store our memories in memory centres. The sophisticated cognitive functioning of the human brain is based on the complex interconnections between cells in the central nervous system. For a long time, it was thought that the subcortical areas of the brain were only responsible for slow modulatory and other autonomic functions. However, our recent discoveries suggest that key interconnected cell populations in the brainstem and basal forebrain play a previously unrecognised, yet immediate and crucial role in these higher-order learning and memory processes.
Our studies are carried out using selective viral pathway detection techniques, opto- and chemogenetic behavioural assays, in vivo electrophysiological methods, in vivo calcium-imaging miniscope technology, behavioural assays, immunohistochemical methods and high-resolution light and electron microscopy. We focus on the subcortical structures that regulate higher-order functions in the cortical, hippocampal and forebrain areas and on the processing of negative experiences in both healthy and pathological brain states.
Theoretical Neuroscience Research Laboratory (Szabolcs Káli)
The brain is a highly complex, nonlinear system, whose operation needs to be understood over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Although a huge amount of data about the nervous system has been collected using a large variety of experimental approaches, making sense of these results and especially connecting the different scales is almost impossible through purely intuitive approaches and qualitative theories. Computational neuroscience offers a range of quantitative tools which allow us to describe the data in a succinct manner, to formulate our hypotheses about neural function clearly and precisely, and to link different scales and levels of organization through the application of mechanistic models. Models are on the one hand constrained by experimental data and, on the other hand, provide novel predictions which are testable using experimental methods.
Our workgroup uses various mathematical and simulation tools to study the dynamics and functions of both single neurons and networks in the hippocampus, often in combination with experiments conducted in the lab.