We study the role of subcortico-cortical loops in statistical learning (learning of stimuli that are simply there and are neither punished nor rewarded,) and sensory perception, specifically in the auditory system, using electrophysiological, optogenetic and chemogenetic techniques in combination with behavioural paradigms. We do this from three perspectives:

  • The coding of predictable and unpredictable sounds in the auditory system and how it changes with experience

  • Sensory gating during sleep

  • Behavioural generalization of novel sounds that are more or less similar to trained and now familiar stimuli.

 

Statistical learning of sounds with different predictability: We expose mice to sounds that are either rewarded/punished or simply there, in naturalistic behavioural settings. Using electrophysiology we study how the nature of the coding of these sounds in the inferior colliculus/thalamus and cortex and how it changes with experience and learning.

 

Sensory gating during sleep: When we sleep, we ignore most sounds. Sensory gating, the detection and processing of specific stimuli, becomes very selective, limited to very few sounds. We use sleep as model to study sensory gating of relevant and irrelevant stimuli. Sounds that were made relevant in a behavioural paradigm are then presented while the animal sleeps. We study how these sounds affect sleeping patterns and how they are represented in the auditory system.

 

Behavioural generalization: For an adult animal, an environmental stimulus is rarely completely novel. The animal has, as a result, an expectation about what will happen when he responds in one way or another to this stimulus. We study the interaction between sensation and memory, by looking at how learned information about a given stimulus influences the way the animal responds to other familiar or novel stimuli.