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PBS Colloquia

Videos of colloquia for the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences will be available here.

May 8, 2014

Earl Miller

Picower Professor of Neuroscience

The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and Department of  Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Title: Cognition is rhythmic


How are some thoughts favored over others?  A wealth of data at the level of single neurons has yielded candidate brain areas and mechanisms for our best understood model: visual attention.  Recent work has naturally evolved toward efforts at a more integrative, network, understanding.  It suggests that focusing attention arises from interactions between widespread cortical and subcortical networks that may be regulated via their rhythmic synchronization.  This could extend to all cognitive processes, suggesting our brain does not operate continuously, but rather discretely, with pulses of activity routing packets of information.  Such discrete cycles would provide a backbone for coordinating computations (and their results) across disparate networks.  However, it comes at a cost: it's naturally limited in bandwidth; only so many things can be computed or carried in a single oscillatory cycle.  This can explain the most fundamental property of conscious thought, its limited capacity, which is the reason why we evolved attention in the first place.

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Last Updated: 6/6/14