Course topics (in progress)
Self-organization and autopoiesis in unicellular and multicellular organisms. Adaptive behavior of living organisms: strategies for maintaining the structure and organization. The living organism as a cognitive system.
The nervous system as an amplifier of possible interactions with the environment. Neural networks. Are neuronal circuits logic circuits?.
Phylogenesis: degrees of complexity of the nervous system in living organisms: correlation with the complexity of behavioral repertoires; sponges, flatworms, arthropods, vertebrates.
Ontogenesis of the central nervous system. Notes on embryogenesis. Differentiation and survival of nerve cells. The growth of axons and guides to their targets. the formation of synapses and their improvement. The interaction with the environment in the regulation of synaptic connections.
Brief review of the anatomy and physiology of the central nervous system.
Brief review of the physiology of the sensory system.
General organization of the motor system. Concept of reflex and voluntary movement.
Motor control theories: reflex theories, motor program theories, cybernetic theories. The use of internal models in motor control.
Cerebral areas involved in the voluntary movement. Prefrontal cortex: executive functions for the selection of movement goal. Dorsal parieto-frontal circuits in the control of upper arm movements and in on-line action control under visual feedback. The ventral stream. Kinematics of reaching and grasping phases and their coordination.The supplemantary and pre-supplementary motor cortex. The primary motor cortex (M1): evolution of the concept from the Fulton map to a representation of movements according to their ecological relevance.Neuronal codes in M1: dynamics or kinematics of movement? Population and multiparametric coding in M1.The pyramidal tract.
Comparing models of motor control: the computational and non computational model of the reaching.
Anatomical and functional organization of the cerebral cortex.Cytoarchitectonic. Cortical columns (micro/macro). Canonical circuit. Afferent/efferent connections. Diffuse and specific thalamo-cortical system. Cortical areas. Functional segregation and integration. Electrical activity in the cortex, EEG and cerebral rhythms.Exchange of information between neurons and cortical areas: mechanisms (frequency modulation and temporal binding).
The concept of neuronal code. Frequency and temporal codes. Structural, functional and effective connectivity . Short and long range connectivity. The human connectome. Dynamic neuronal assemblies as a substrate for behaviour. Role of neuronal oscillations in the formation of neuronal assemblies. The binding problem.
Neuromodulatory systems of the thalamo-cortical activity.
The sleep-waking cycle. The use of different parameters for the definition of the different behavioural states. Sleep scoring. Thalamo-cortical mechanism of state changes. Changes in the electrophysiological properties of talamic and cortical neurons across the different behavioural states. Cerebral metabolism across the animal states. Active and passive theories for the generation of sleep. The reticular activating system and its relationship with the neuro-modulatory systems. The hypothalamus in regulation of the sleep waking cycle. The REM sleep: phenomenology and neuronal mechanisms. The functions of sleep.
The principles of learning and memory. Memory at the cellular level. Memory at the level of neuronal systems. Taxonomy of the memory systems. Declarative and implicit memory.
Eating behavior. Homeostatic and hedonic mechanisms. Neuronal basis of eating behavior.