Circuit mechanisms of cognitive control
Dr Adil Khan
King's College London
Animals must be flexible so they can survive as this allows them to react differently to the same stimuli depending on the context. For example, the smell of smoke will probably elicit very different behavioural responses if you are in your house or you are at a barbecue. However, the way the brain selects different actions in response to the same stimulus remains a mystery.
I will investigate the neural mechanisms of such behavioural flexibility. Mice are capable of performing highly flexible behaviours and they are ideal for this study because powerful techniques exist for measuring and manipulating the activity of neurons in the mouse brain. In this project I will study flexible behaviour in which mice are trained to change their responses to the same stimulus every few minutes. The mice will be placed in a virtual reality environment and I will study their brains during this flexible behaviour. I will study the prefrontal cortex, which has a crucial role in generating flexible behaviour and I will test if the prefrontal cortex acts as a switchboard, routing information to different brain regions at different times, depending on the current context.
This study will shed light on the circuit mechanisms of cognitive control in the prefrontal cortex.