In systems neuroscience, researchers use animal models to emulate core cognitive processes. This allows for more detailed study of algorithms and neural circuits that produce the representations of the mind. Scientists examine how patterns of neuronal connections (circuits) give rise to patterns of neuronal activity, and how those patterns of neural activity give rise to overt behavioral and different internal neural states.
Systems neuroscience studies the processes that occur within our central nervous system. Animal models allow much more precise study and intervention in the neural circuits that underlie higher cognitive function. Although these models do not capture the full mental abilities of humans, they are selected such that they likely share evolutionarily conserved neuronal processing mechanisms that will generalize to human brain function.
This research is important to all aspects of our work. It provides detailed data that is used to build computational models of cognitive processes. It also allows us to test hypotheses about brain function by precisely intervening in the system in ways that are not possible in humans, such as neural or genetic manipulations.
These experiments are critical to building our understanding, as captured by computational models. They are also central to our exploration of possible ways to repair or augment broken neural circuits in diseased or disrupted states.
Because systems neuroscientists seek to understand the basis for cognitive, motivational, sensory, and motor processes, their work overlaps with that of our other research disciplines. These connections are critical in uncovering answers to basic questions about how we move, learn and feel.