Oscillations are prominent in all realms of the physical and biological world. Clocks tick, fire flies flash and neurons of the brain ‘fire’ action potentials. While it is known that two clocks on a wall will synchronize their pendulums and specific species of fire flies will phase lock their flashes, the basic mechanisms of how large populations of neurons interact in a coordinated manner to enable a rich repertoire of adaptive behaviors is relatively unknown. Specifically, we have a limited understanding on how neurons self-organize their activity to produce the synchrony that is needed to transfer information across large-scale neural networks. Moreover, even less is known regarding how information is transformed and updated as it propagates across the brain. Theoretically, it is the oscillatory rhythms of the brain, along with the synaptic architecture, that allow neurons to transiently synchronize and desynchronize their activity, optimizing nimble computations at the “speed of thought”. Fortunately, we have reached a technological threshold that has permitted the testing of theoretical models on large amounts of neural data.
Therefore, my research seeks to understand how the brain, a densely interconnected set of individual neurons, rapidly translates environmental information into complex representations in support of cognitive function. In order to achieve these goals, my collaborators and I have embarked on a unique research trajectory that will allow us to test the hypotheses of complex network activity using both a bottom-up approach, inspired by computational models, and a top-down approach, re-evaluating our data in the perspective of non-linear physics. It is our expectation that, by adopting an integrative approach that bridges disciplines, we can learn how the small actions of single neurons, connected in a network can bring about the emergence of sophisticated dynamics that support behavior and higher cognitive function. Moreover, by examining neural processing on multiple scales, from small groups of isolated cells to the population dynamics of entire brain regions, we believe that we will find a common etiology of how coordinated activity emerges that can be extended into the larger field of complexity.”