Today we will have a Life and Mind Seminar by Christopher Buckley at the Tokyo University’s Komaba campus. All welcome!
1pm-2pm room 18-829, Komaba campus, Tokyo University
Christopher L. Buckley
The importance of sensorimotor feedback for behaviour has led many philosophers and cyberneticists to suggest that mind itself does not reside within the head alone but emerges from the interaction of brain/body and environment. Today the modern proponents of these ideas have begun to mount a systematic challenge to some of the dominating concepts in the cognitive sciences. Variously called the sensorimotor approach or enactivism by practitioners these ideas suggest that perception and action must combine to allow conscious experience.
Despite some notable successes in invertebrate systems the migration of these ideas from the cognitive sciences to mainstream, vertebrate dominated, neuroscience has been slow. For example even some of the first experiments in neuroscience demonstrated that brain state (a pattern brain activity and responses) is different whether a subject is passively viewing or actively engaged with an environment. Yet neuroscientists have largely appealed to internal mechanisms to explain these changes and have largely ignored the role of sensorimotor feedback. However I would argue this does not amount to conceptual resistance to the role sensorimotor feedback but, at least in part, reflects experimental practices which are dominated by heavily restrained, or anaesthetized animals, where body/environment feedback is minimised.
Recent experimental innovations mean that this state of affairs is beginning to radically change. Closed-loop experimental paradigms that utilise virtual reality in mice and fish, well circumscribed sensory-motor systems, and advances in brain machine brain interfaces (BMBI) are becoming more widespread. Consequently, in vivo electrophysiology and optogenetics of behaving animals is quickly becoming an achievable gold standard. This work places the sensorimotor loop at the heart of neural processing and promises to give enactivist ideas renewed relevance for mainstream neuroscience.
In this talk I will describe theoretical and experimental work we have been conducting in collaboration with several laboratories to examine the role of sensorimotor feedback in neural processing. I describe data analysis and modelling work of zebrafish larvae in swim simulators, the whisker system of mice, and cortical BMBI’s. I present evidence that sensorimotor feedback via the body/environment directly modulates the activity and responses of neural populations. Specifically I will describe evidence that the qualitative changes in brain dynamics observed when an animal engages the world constitutes an overall stabilization of neural dynamics by negative body/environmental feedback. Further I will show how the interruption of this feedback produces large responses in brain activity which we argue comprises an overlooked sensory mechanism that can enchance signal-to-noise ratios. Lastly I describe our new experimental work that explores the use of artificial feedback to control cortical stability and enhance sensory perception.