Valeria Gazzola, Christian Keysers and Ritu Bhandari, from the Social Brain Lab received a BIAL foundation grant for their project entitled “Predictive coding of observed action in the brain – a 7T study”.
Predictive coding model
If we see a waiter with a bottle of wine and his cork screw, we can predict his actions that will unfold in the next minute: driving in the cork screw, pulling the cork, pouring a little in one glass, waiting for the customer’s approval, etc. This grant will shed light on how the brain does that by testing a predictive coding model we have developed in the lab. In this model, if the actions of the waiter unfold as predicted, our perception of the waiter’s actions are driven by premotor activations representing our own knowledge of how to pour wine, derived from our past experience, engraved in our synaptic connections. Counterintuitively, visual areas are actually inhibited, and contribute little to our perception of the world. Only if something unexpected happens – e.g. the customer spits out the wine – would predictions inhibit the wrong visual neurons, and visual regions would trigger a feed-forward signal that would realign our perception to the reality.
This grant will test two specific predictions made by this model. First, we hypothesize that when witnessing actions unfold as predicted, feedback (predictive) signals from premotor cortices should prevail in parietal cortices over feedforward (prediction error) signals from visual cortices. This will be tested using layer specific BOLD measurements at ultra-high field. Second, we hypothesized that predictions cancel out predicted visual input in visual cortex using inhibitory interneurons. This will be tested using innovative functional GABA and Glutamate spectroscopy.
BIAL is the largest Portuguese pharmaceutical company and one of the main pharmaceutical companies in the Iberian Peninsula. In 1994 the BIAL Foundation launched a Grants programme for scientific research with the aim of encouraging the research into human being’s physical and mental processes, namely in fields still largely unexplored but which warrant further scientific analysis, including Psychophysiology. Up to now 537 projects have been supported, involving about 1200 researchers from 25 countries. The approved applications have benefited from grants in amounts ranging from €5,000 to €50,000. Other awards from BIAL include: BIAL Merit Award in Medical Sciences (€200.000) and BIAL Award in Clinical Medicine (€100.000).