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With technological advances in neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, neuroscience of multi-regional brain-wide neural circuits is taking off. However, recent studies in this area have renewed the debate on local versus global neural representation and processing. Here, focusing on working memory (a core cognitive function), I will propose a mechanism for functional specificity in a cortex made of repeated canonical local circuits à la Kevan Martin and Rodney Douglas. First, I will introduce large-scale modeling of cortex based on connectomic data for monkeys and mice. Second, I will show that our model naturally gives rise to a hierarchy of timescales, and I will highlight macroscopic gradients of synaptic excitation and inhibition as a general principle of the large-scale cortical organization. Third, I will present our modeling of distributed working memory and simple decision-making. This line of work gives rise to the new concept of “bifurcation in space” to explain the emergence of functional modularity in a cortical system. 



Xiao-Jing Wang is Distinguished Global Professor of Neural Science, director of the Swartz Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at New York University. Between 2012 and 2017 he served as the founding provost and vice president for research at the Shanghai campus of NYU.  Previously he was Professor at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Wang’s research focuses on theory and neural mechanisms of cognitive functions such as working memory, decision-making and executive control of flexible behavior, with a special interest in the prefrontal cortex (dubbed “Brain’s CEO”). His research and efforts contributed to the founding of the nascent field of Computational Psychiatry. More recently, his group developed theory and connectome-based modeling of large-scale multi-regional brain circuits to investigate whole brain dynamics and distributed cognition. Dr. Wang is a recipient of Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience Prize, Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Belgium.



This is a hybrid event.  The seminar will be held at the Seminar Room, New Radcliffe House (2nd Floor) but can also be followed on Zoom.  

You can access the Zoom link via OxTalks at Emergence of functional modularity in the cortex built from repeated canonical local circuits - Oxford Talks or, email us at to request the link.