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Project title: Self-organisation as a theory of brain development

Primary supervisor: Dr Stuart Wilson

Project description: Self-organisation is a general theory of how function is assigned to cortical microcircuits. The theory predicts that a balance between cooperative and competitive interactions in local cortical circuits, consolidated by Hebbian learning, results in similar inputs being represented by nearby neurons. Simulations of cortical self-organisation have mainly concerned vision, where \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'similar inputs\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' may translate to \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'pixels at similar retinal locations\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' or \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'edges of similar orientation\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'. My previous work has extended the approach for touch, showing that \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'similar inputs\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' can, for example, translate to \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'body parts often touching\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'. In principle, self-organising models can generate predictions about the functional organisation assigned to any cortical area. In practice, the validity of these models is limited by the accuracy with which model inputs reflect natural developmental experiences. Particularly for \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'higher-order\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' cortical areas that combine information from multiple sources, i.e., multisensory or sensorimotor areas, natural interactions between these sources are difficult to synthesize. The project aims to address this bottleneck, by exploiting natural human and animal behaviours to generate inputs for models of map formation. This should help improve our understanding of the developmental mechanisms that underlie disorders of multisensory and sensorimotor integration.

Formal enquiries should be addressed to: Dr Stuart Wilson (s.p.wilson@sheffield.ac.uk)

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