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Memory Sequencing and Prediction: Insights from Primate Neural SystemsChristopher Petkov

Abstract: To understand cognitive function and how neural systems establish internal models of the sensory world, there is substantial interest in identifying neuronal signals that carry mnemonic traces of the sensory past and predictions about the future. In this presentation, Chris will first overview recent comparative structural and functional neuroimaging studies in human and nonhuman primates establishing new neural system correspondences across the species. The results encourage a change in thinking about how the human neural system for language and memory evolved from an ancestral primate prototype. Neuronal recordings in the nonhuman primates are grounding insights obtained with direct neuronal recordings in neurosurgery patients. We have conducted comparative auditory sequence learning tasks, whereby each sound establishes an expectation of forthcoming sounds and perceptual dependencies between sounds can be separated in time to engage working memory functions. The neuronal results reveal forward prediction-related activity in the prefrontal and auditory cortices and decoding analyses identify sequence replay activity in the hippocampus, the mnemonic trace. New research directions focus on high-density array recordings across the cortical layers in both species and optogenetic system perturbation which is only possible in the primate model. These efforts aim to provide mechanistic insights into a neural system often disrupted by brain disorders.


Bio: Chris Petkov is Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa, USA where he is now based. He is also Professor of Comparative Neuropsychology at Newcastle University Medical School in the UK. Chris leads an international research program focused on understanding neuronal system mechanisms for human language and memory functions grounded in indispensable comparative research with a primate model the laboratory has developed. The program of work relies on combining advanced neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques with causal neural system perturbation. Chris trained at the National Institutes of Health, USA prior to completing his PhD in systems neuroscience at the University of California, Davis, USA. He was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany after which he established his comparative neuropsychology laboratory at Newcastle University Medical School in the United Kingdom. The laboratory is now transatlantic thanks to and in partnership with Dr Yuki Kikuchi who leads the UKRI funded work at Newcastle University (MRC and BBSRC). He has held Wellcome Trust and European Research Council awards, and the research programme is currently funded by joint UK and National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation grants.