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Sebastian Vásquez López

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I am currently a Junior Research Fellow at Merton College and I collaborate with the Computational Neuroscience Lab at NDCN and the Neurotheory Lab at the Department of Experimental Psychology.

I am interested in the general principles underlying the function of the cerebral cortex and its interactions with subcortical structures, particularly the thalamus. The cortex is the brain structure considered to be the seat of most of our higher cognitive functions, including conscious perception, motor action, planning, abstract thinking, spatial navigation, language, numeracy, introspection and imagination. Despite the seemingly disparate range of functions attributed to different regions of the cortex, there is a striking similarity in their basic circuit architecture, suggesting the existence of common cortical computations of relevance to all forms of cognition.

Having previously studied principles of cortical organisation in the sensory (auditory) domain, I am now focused on some of the brain regions that have been implicated in decision making and behavioural flexibility —a hallmark of human intelligence. This form of cognition is thought to require the formation of mental models of the world that can support efficient learning and guide future action. I am working on developing computational models of such circuits, as well as investigating how some of these cognitive processes might be instantiated in the activity of neurons during behaviour.