About this Research Topic
All organisms are exposed to a myriad of sensory stimuli every day, yet, only a small subset of the inputs we are subject to, receive our conscious attention.
Our brains must balance between two counteracting processes:
(a) the representation of all available sensory stimuli in precise spatiotemporal neuronal patterns;
(b) the selection of behaviorally relevant information to guide adequate behavioral responses.
While the selection of relevant information to produce a behaviorally adequate response, depends on and complements the first process, these processes and consequent responses, differ in nature. It is thought that the hierarchical organization of sensory pathways, from subcortical to cortical structures, and the presence of feedback loops between their stations, supports the selective representation of sensory stimuli, during processes such as focused perception, attention, and learning.
At present we do not fully understand the dynamic and adaptive transformations to information representations along the different sensory pathways, together with the mechanisms by which information processing at subcortical levels can be controlled via descending projections from the cortex.
Although research on subcortical-cortical network activity is gaining momentum internationally, little is known about the role of these subcortical-cortical “loops” in sensory perception and particularly across sensory modalities.
For instance, in the auditory modality, information travels along multiple relay stations before reaching the thalamus and cortex and feedback loops can control sensory processing at all upstream stations, even down to the cochlear level. In vision and olfaction, feedforward and feedback pathways are shorter compared to the auditory modality. For example, in the visual system, the input reaches the thalamus directly from the retina. The retina, however, is a complex circuit per se, characterized by differently specialized neuronal cell types and layers. Subcortical-cortical loops in this system are largely restricted to thalamocortical interactions. Finally, in the olfactory system, information reaches directly the olfactory cortex bypassing thalamic nucleus stations. This might be related to chemosensation being one of the evolutionarily oldest modalities.
The goal of this Research Topic is to bring together international researchers working on Cortico-Subcortical Loops in Sensory Processing in investigating the function of complex neural circuits and deepen our knowledge on the operational principles of subcortical-cortical networks in the different sensory modalities. In particular, we aim to receive submissions addressing the following biological questions, using different experimental models and introducing novel and complementary techniques:
- What mechanisms for feedback control are unique and which are shared across sensory modalities?
- Do these circuits perform common functions and serve similar needs for the individuum?
- Can differences in the anatomical framework be explained by the very nature of the physical information processed?
- How do cortico-subcortical loops across modalities impact on behavior?
This Research Topic would hence be an ideal venue for researchers to share their current view about the commonalities and differences in operational principles of subcortical-cortical loops from a vivid and interdisciplinary perspective.
Keywords: sensory cortex, corticoefferent loops, sensory modalities, circuitry, behavior
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