SBRI Stem-cell and Brain Research Institute - France (Lyon)

Charlie Wilson / CRCN - INSERM

Research interests 

I study the neural dynamics of frontal cortical networks during adaptive behaviour and learning to learn in humans and macaques. I want to understand how the brain dynamics linked to cognition emerge during long term learning, and how those dynamics contribute to a cognitive system that is flexible and efficient.

To do this we make recordings of neural activity whilst human and monkey subjects perform cognitive tasks, and in particular learn to perform those tasks more efficiently. The aim is to track the emergence of so-called executive processes, and in particular to track the neural dynamics that are necessary to put in place such processes. My recent and future work in this field has focused on cortical oscillations. Cortical oscillations subserve interaction between assemblies in the brain, and we wish to reveal how cortical oscillations build up the dynamical networks necessary to acquire and perform complex cognitive tasks.

Current projects

1. We are studying the way in which cortical assemblies interact in order to subserve 'learning to learn', the principle of improving one's learning, becoming flexible in one's learning, and applying task sets appropriate to a given situation. We will study the very specific interactions of the midcingulate cortex and posterior parietal cortex with prefrontal cortex. This project also involves the development of pathway specific DREADD interventions, to reveal the causal influence of the interaction mechanisms revealed by the neurophysiological recordings. Finally the project will also see the development of free-access testing and recording in macaques, a significant refinement in this work. The project is funded by the French ANR.

2. In collaboration with Véronique Sgambato of the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod also in Lyon, we are further developing the pathway specific DREADD interventions to target striato-cortical pathways implicated in impulsivity. As part of this project we will use PET scanning to provide detailed pharmacological analysis of novel and prospective DREADD actuators, specifically within the dopaminergic and serotoninergic systems. This project is funded by Fondation Neurodis.

3. We are studying the bursting properties of frontal and parietal cortical oscillations, in the context of tasks requiring animals to explore and exploit their environment, and to decide when to switch between the two behaviours.

4. We seek to understand how oscillations and other neurophysiological markers change during the early stages of Parkinson's disease prior to the development of the classical symptoms of the disease. This project has clear clinical benefits in terms of understanding early neuro-degeneration, but also brings fundamental knowledge about the assemblies of the frontal cortex and their relation to dopamine.

Member of SBRI Teams

Neurobiology of executive functions

Member contact

Selected Publications of Charlie Wilson

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