Two individual research grants for Hiroshi Ito
The Max Planck Research Group Leader secures DFG funding for his studies on spatial navigation
DFG research grants enable individuals who have completed their academic training to conduct research projects with clearly defined topics and durations at any time, regardless of the subject. Hiroshi Ito, research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research is receiving two DFG grants to support new projects. With one of these grants, the Ito group will study the contribution of the midbrain dopamine system in goal decisions based on the brain’s internal cognitive map. The other grant will allow the group to investigate the role of oscillatory activity in processing information distributed across multiple brain regions.
“A key feature of the brain is the ability to construct its own internal model to plan an action and predict its subsequent consequences. Spatial navigation is one of such behaviors in which animals choose a sequence of actions to reach a desired destination that is often beyond the range of sensory perception. This ability is thought to be supported by the brain’s internal model of the environment – so-called cognitive map”, explains Ito. “We are particularly interested in the neural mechanisms underlying spatial-value learning which may fundamentally be different from the ones described in simple stimulus-action association tasks. Through these projects, we want to obtain a unified view of the role of the dopamine system as well as its interactions with other brain regions in planning and decision of goal-directed behaviors”, adds Ito.
To address this question, the scientists will design a new navigation experiment, which will be implemented with state-of-the-art technologies, such as large-scale high-density neural recordings coupled with the measurement of dopamine release. Their findings may lead to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder caused by the loss of dopamine neurons.