Predictive coding in perception and cognition


Neural mechanisms by which the brain predictively controls perception and cognition

A central yet unanswered question in neuroscience concerns the cortical mechanisms by which the brain predictively controls perception and higher-level cognitive functions, e.g., language. My studies investigate how predictions about upcoming stimuli are implemented in brain circuits at different spatial scales, via which mechanisms sensory predictions aid perception and higher-level cognitive function, and how the brain’s predictive machinery may be utilized to systematically improve sensory and memory functions. 


Inferential and episodic predictive processes: tracking their unfolding during visual narrative perception

Our brain not only processes incoming information from the environment, but also continuously predicts upcoming events. These predictions can be based on different representational structures in the brain: some originate from abstract models of the world (schemas), while others rely on unique autobiographical experiences. Can we differentiate these predictions based on their neurobiological underpinnings and algorithmic nature? 


Sensory sharpening effects of attention and expectation

Attention to sensory stimuli is never uniformly distributed.  We tested whether time-based and feature-based aspects of sensory attention interact in facilitating the detection of new stimuli in a stream. We recorded behavioural and encephalographic (EEG) data while participants attended to repeating pure tones (standard tones) which unpredictably changed in feature (deviant tones). Participants responded more rapidly to deviant tones longer waited for (time or Hazard rate effect), as well as to deviant events carrying larger rather than smaller deviancy magnitudes (feature effect). 


Methods development

Advancements in science necessitate theories, to make sense of observations and to predict new observations, but also sensitive methods to enable observations at the right scale. As we need a telescope to look at the galaxy far away, we need methods to record and perturb the human brain at multiple scales from the level of networks, areas, cortical layers, columns, and single units. Our lab aims to advance methods for human neuroscience across these scales.