20 February 2021 - People

Congratulations to Asli Ayaz, co-lead research scientist at the Bonin lab. She was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fellowship to study sensory information processing in the brain.


Every day our five senses are bombarded with a continuous flow of stimuli. Being able to select only those pieces of sensory information that are relevant to us can mean the difference between life and death.

“Selection and integration of information is indeed essential for our survival,” explains Asli Ayaz. “For example, if you cross a busy street while talking on the phone, you need to prioritize your view of oncoming traffic over the voice on the other end of the line.”

But the importance of appropriate sensory selection is also very relevant in a clinical context. “Think of autism spectrum disorders or schizophrenia, where filtering or processing inputs may be disturbed.”

The right info, in the right context

Ayaz wants to reveal large-scale neural circuits in the brain that allow the gating and processing of the right sensory information, in the right context.

“My plan is to first uncover how the sensory signal flow in a cortex-wide neural network is shaped in the context of different types of behavior,” says Ayaz. “Next, I will test whether the higher-order thalamic nuclei, the lateral posterior and medial posterior nucleus, mediate these context-dependent modulations of cortical dynamics.”

The project's findings will uncover how brain activity across multiple regions is coordinated and controlled when selecting different types of sensory input. This in turn will provide a framework to study circuit dysfunction in complex cognitive disorders.

Highly innovative

The MSCA selection is very competitive: candidates not only need a strong CV and research plan, but also a good match with their host institute with a clear path for career development.

Ayaz research plans were deemed “highly innovative” and “exploit new opportunities of technological advancement”. Vincent Bonin, PI at NERF, couldn’t agree more:

“We are thrilled to see the reviewing panel recognized the high quality of Asli’s research proposal and the experience and skills she brings to the project.”

Congratulations, Asli!

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