Neural circuits underlying curiosity-driven exploration

by Dr. Sebastian Haesler (KU Leuven, Dept. of Neuroscience)

will take place on Monday, February 19th, 2024 at at 2:00pm. Where

Host: Prof. Nico BunzeckInstitute for Psychology I

Abstract: Curiosity refers to the intrinsic desire of humans and animals to explore the unknown even when there is no apparent reason to do so. The most fundamental form of curiosity may be found among orienting behaviors. Across animal species, novel or surprising stimuli elicit arousal and evoke sensory inspection and exploration. These orienting responses habituate after few exposures, suggesting a very rapid form of non-associative learning. At the level of neural circuits, orienting involves distinct processing steps including the evaluation of sensory stimuli to detect novelty and surprise, the activation of catecholaminergic systems and eventually the initiation of orienting reactions. In my lab, we investigate these processing steps using brain-wide functional ultrasound imaging, large-scale electrophysiology and cell-type specific manipulations in mice in order to understand how neural circuits transform sensory inputs into curious exploration behaviors.