A functional hallmark of the brain is its rhythmic activity. Brain rhythms consist of neuronal network oscillations in various frequency bands, and these oscillations are generated by synchronized firing of many neurons in the network. Neuronal oscillations are an evolutionary conserved feature and can be observed in nearly all brain regions. These rhythmic activities play a key role in neuronal coding and higher cognitive processes. Although brain rhythms have been studied extensively for nearly a century, the mechanisms of neuronal oscillations are not fully understood. An important question is how neurons are entrained by the rhythmic activity. To be able to answer this, it is important to determine how neurons integrate synchronized synaptic inputs during network oscillations.
Dendrites represent the main input structure of neurons. They determine neuronal activity by integrating incoming synaptic signals in space and time. Research in the past few decades has demonstrated that dendrites are capable of performing a wide range of complex computations. However, most of these studies analyzed dendritic functions under conditions in which the surrounding neuronal network is sparsely active, while neurons in the intact brain constantly receive barrages of synaptic inputs. How dendrites process synaptic inputs in a highly active network, such as during natural rhythmic activity, remains an interesting and yet entirely open question. Addressing this question is critical for understanding neuronal computations in vivo.
The long-term goal of the project is to combine complementary expertise of the Norwegian and German groups to analyze dendritic computation during rhythmic activities of the brain. To reach this goal, we planned a strong interaction based on the following joint activities: (1) Developing the proposed scientific project; (2) Performing pilot experiments; (3) Transferring skills and techniques; (4) Preparing a common grant application (ERC synergy grant).