Top‐down Neuromodulation in the Brain: From Basic Research to Clinical Applications

OB pathways

We receive sensory information via our sensory organs. However, what we perceive (and what we don’t!) is strongly influenced by our experiences and expectations, as well as our attention and arousal state.

Our brain thereby actively influences and filters sensory information; mainly using so called “top-down” inputs. Failure to do so can lead to medical conditions, such as attention deficit disorder or autism. It is well established that modulations of information processing occur in higher brain areas such as neocortex and hippocampus. However, less is known about the mechanisms by which top-down inputs are affecting early processing stages of the brain. Modulations at these early stages are of particular importance since they will affect all subsequent processing steps.

Our lab investigates top-down modulations using the olfactory system (sense of smell) as a model. In the olfactory system top-down inputs to the earliest stage of information processing, the olfactory bulb, seem to be particular important as they even outnumber direct synaptic sensory inputs.

In order to investigate the mechanisms by which top-down inputs are affecting early sensory information processing and the specific behavioral contexts leading to their activation our lab uses a large variety of new optogenetic tools in combination with 2-photon microscopy and extracellular recordings.

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