Thalamocortical circuits from neuroanatomy to mental representations
In highly volatile environments, performing actions that address current needs and desires is an ongoing challenge for living organisms. For example, the predictive value of environmental signals needs to be updated when predicted and actual outcomes differ. Furthermore, organisms also need to gain control over the environment through actions that are expected to produce specific outcomes. The data to be presented will show that these processes are highly reliant on thalamocortical circuits wherein thalamic nuclei make a critical contribution to adaptive decision-making, challenging the view that the thalamus only acts as a relay station for the cortical stage. Over the past few years, our work has highlighted the specific contribution of multiple thalamic nuclei in the ability to update the predictive link between events or the causal link between actions and their outcomes via the combination of targeted thalamic interventions (lesion, chemogenetics, disconnections) with behavioral procedures rooted in experimental psychology. We argue that several features of thalamocortical architecture are consistent with a prominent role for thalamic nuclei in shaping mental representations.
Mathieu Wolff defended his PhD in 2004 at the university of Bordeaux. His work consisted in examining spatial and nonspatial abilities in various mice models to highlight the role of specific 5-HT receptors in cognitive processes. He then did his postdoctoral research (2004-2007) at the university of Canterbury (New Zealand) where he developed his interest for thalamic nuclei and their role in cognition. He also examined the possibility to alleviate the cognitive deficits elicited by thalamic damage through environmental enrichment. He secured a researcher position at the CNRS in 2008. Since then, he has been working at the Aquitaine Institute for Cognitive and Integrative Neurosciences (INCIA, Bordeaux, France) where he developed several lines of research aimed at understanding how thalamic nuclei and cortical regions interact to support cognition. To this end he developed various experimental approaches ranging from descriptive to functional neuroanatomy. He is currently a CNRS research director and he is the co-leader of the DECAD (Decision & Adaptation) team.
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