Decoding neural assemblies over multiple brain regions, extended experience and sleep-wake cycles

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Matt Jones

    University of Bristol

Project summary

UK cashpoints return your card before dispensing money. US cashpoints give out money before returning your card. Knowing how to use a UK cashpoint helps you understand how to use a US ATM but how do our brains cope with these differences and why do they sometimes fail to cope? These questions can be answered by mapping brain activity patterns during one experience then seeing how those patterns support future learning and adapt to store new knowledge. In order to measure the activity of lots of individual brain cells, we will use rats with tiny wires implanted in their brains. Rats like using cashpoints and they will happily press or poke things to trigger rewards. Like us, rats tend to perform better after a nap, probably because brain cells activated during learning are then reactivated during sleep. This unconscious mental replay helps file new knowledge so it can be used to help make the right choice next time. These experiments will tell us how brains adapt to their surroundings to let our past shape our future. It will also show why sleep is so important and how poor choices might be corrected.