Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

What makes our brains so flexible - Bernstein Award 2012 for Tim Vogels

12.09.2012
On 12 September, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) conferred this year's Bernstein Award for Computational Neuroscience.

With up to 1.25 million euros, it is one of the most highly remunerated award for young scientists worldwide. The award enables outstanding young researchers to establish their own group at a German research institution.

This year's awardee Tim Vogels will establish his research group at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Bernstein Center Berlin. The award ceremony took place during the annual meeting of the Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience in Munich.

How is it possible that, in the continuous stream of sensory information constantly bombarding us, we can flexibly direct our attention to one out of many information sources and neglect everything else? Just imagine a big orchestra, with almost a hundred musicians. In the middle of a piece, we can specifically focus our attention on the tuba, without letting ourselves be distracted by the first violinist’s virtuosic solo. And just a moment later, we can listen to the oboe.

This flexibility and the brain mechanisms on which it is based are the subjects of Tim Vogels' research. His tools are theoretical models. With their help, he is able to simulate neural networks in a computer and use them as virtual "guinea pigs" to formulate new hypotheses, which, in turn, can provide testable predictions for neurobiological experiments. He is interested both in slow changes that are typically associated with learning processes as well as in very short-term changes that allow us to quickly change our focus of attention.

Vogels’ previous research has already provided a basis for exploring these questions. Thanks to Vogels’ and others’ models, we know today that the neural networks in the brain maintain their sensitive balance by a well-tuned combination of excitatory and inhibitory stimuli. Vogels believes that this is the key to the flexible switching mechanisms in the brain. "I imagine that excitatory stimuli and their inhibitory counterparts interact with each other like guest and doorman," said Vogels. "The qualities of both will determine the decision of which guest – which environmental stimulus – is allowed to pass and which not. But also additional external factors may play a role, such as, metaphorically speaking, whether the establishment is full already, or how many friends the guest is bringing along."

Vogels will now pursue these and other questions in Berlin, in cooperation with local scientists of the Bernstein Center and the Humboldt-Universität, in particular Michael Brecht, Henning Sprekeler, Richard Kempter and Susanne Schreiber.

Tim Vogels initially studied physics at Technische Universität Berlin. After his pre-diploma, a Fulbright scholarship offered him the opportunity to continue his studies at Brandeis University in Boston, USA. He received his PhD in 2007 in the laboratory of Larry Abbott, a pioneer of computational neuroscience and the author of one of the most widely read textbooks on the subject. After a postdoctoral stay with Rafael Yuste at Columbia University, he became a Marie Curie Reintegration Fellow in 2010, in the laboratory of Wulfram Gerstner at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.

The Bernstein Award is part of the National Bernstein Network for Computational Neuroscience, a funding initiative launched by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in 2004. The initiative’s aim was to sustainably establish the new and promising research discipline of Computational Neuroscience in Germany. With this support, the network meanwhile has developed into one of the largest research networks in the field of computational neuroscience worldwide. Namesake of the network is the German physiologist Julius Bernstein (1835-1917).

Contact:

Tim Vogels
Laboratoire de Calcul Neuromimétique
École Polytechnique Fédérale, Station 15
1015 Lausanne
Switzerland
phone: +41 21 693 5265
email: tim.vogels@epfl.ch

Dr. Simone Cardoso de Oliveira | idw
Further information:
http://www.epfl.ch
http://www.bccn-berlin.de/
http://www.hu-berlin.de/

More articles from Awards Funding:

nachricht Clone Wars – FLI researcher is honored with prestigious Sofja Kovalevskaja Award
27.07.2016 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

nachricht Sponges and shells get settled at ZIK B CUBE
18.07.2016 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Awards Funding >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Self-assembling nano inks form conductive and transparent grids during imprint

Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.

To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...

Im Focus: The Glowing Brain

A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology

On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...

Im Focus: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Vortex laser offers hope for Moore's Law

29.07.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology

29.07.2016 | Life Sciences

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>