Maps of the brain

Phrenology maps of the brain

Sensation doesn’t make sense except in reference to an embodied self. Therefore the brain processes information from the environment through the sensory organs in reference to internal representations of the sensory world. Such neural maps are not unique to sensory systems. From hippocampal place cells that encode our locational progression in space, to the maps of the premotor and motor cortices that plan and encode action, neural pathways responsible for decoding sensory information and encoding action are organized to process information in the form of topographical representations. These maps change (i.e., expand, shrink, fuse or diffuse) with anything we do, as experiences and actions are translated into patterns of neural activity. For example, practicing how to play piano or reading the Braille alphabet with our fingertips modifies topographical representations. Alternatively, depriving the sensory homunculus from its peripheral inputs also alters its topographical organisation.

Encoding the sensory world as maps is efficient, as map formation effectively groups neurons that most commonly interact with each other. This organisation decreases metabolic costs, reduces cable length, and minimises long-range connectivity while increasing processing speed without altering conduction velocity. Such a structural formation functionally reduces information redundancy, increases channel capacity and enhances information content in neural signals by eliminating spatially conflicting information while allowing multiple algorithmic transformation of the sensory information on the periphery. Despite the intuitive explanatory power behind maps as a basic functional neural unit and the proposition that they underlie the derivation of the computational principles that govern sensory processing and the generation of perception, it is still unknown if the topographic maps of the brain are incidental or functionally essential to brain organization in health and disease.

This week long summer school course will bring together the world’s leading scientists in spatial, cognitive and functional maps in the brain. The course is organised into four thematic sessions: Creating the maps, Modifying the Maps, Reading the Maps and Function of the Maps. The course will include a combination of didactic lectures and computer practical sessions. Participants will also be invited to present their research in poster sessions accompanying the four themes in the course. The Course faculty will evaluate the posters and best poster(s) in each theme will receive awards.

Learning outcome
After this course you are able to:

  • Analyse sensation, perception and action in terms of basic operational principles of the brain
  • Relate principles of neural representations from small-scale networks to larger-scale functional maps in the brain

Entry level

  • Master
  • PhD
  • Post-doc
  • Professional

For whom is this course designed
Advanced students and researchers who are interested in anatomical and functional organisation of the nervous system. Participants who would gain most out of this summer school include those who wishes to gain mechanistic insight into the map formation and function and those would like to learn computational approaches on how to read these maps in the brain. Participants are strongly encouraged to present their work in the poster presentation sessions of the course.

Admission requirements
A Master or graduate degree in a relevant field. A basic background in MATLAB programming language.

Admission documents

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation letter
  • Research abstract (if the applicant wishes to present a poster in the course)

Monday 8 August - Friday 12 August 2016

Course leader
Prof. dr. T. Celikel
Professor & Chair
Department of Neurophysiology
Faculty of Science
Radboud University

Course fee
The course fee includes the registration fee, course materials, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, lunch, and a number of social activities.


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