Waves beyond waveforms

by Dr. Tzvetan Popov, University of Zürich

will take place on Tuesday, January 30th, 2024 from 16:00 to 17:00 hours in CBBM Building, Ground Floor, Seminar Room Levi-Montalcini.

Host: Prof. Jonas Obleser
Institute of Psychology I

Abstract: Contemporary neuroscience depends on the validity of the premise that, under well-controlled experimental conditions, brain rhythms vary with task-specific cognitive demands and reflect the neural support of the cognitive operation performed. The contrary view that responding to external stimuli depends on the ability of the host to act and move its sensory organs, although noted repeatedly, has found little implementation in experimental practice. This oversight has had significant consequences for experimental design, interpretation, and the application of research findings in basic science, as well as their translation to real-world applications.
In this presentation, a complementary view is discussed, exploring the hypothesis of rhythm-mediated action control. This hypothesis is based on the unusual, but I believe very sound premise that brain rhythms evolved to control the movement of the brain’s sensors and to register the consequences of this movement. This control of behavior is a species-independent necessity and a key survival requirement for all organisms equipped with and relying on the ability to explore the environment. Movement of the sensors is a necessary requirement in order to engage properly in a given cognitive task. Initially evolved to support physical movement, rhythm-mediated action is also utilized during higher-order cognition. Consequently, brain rhythms appear correlated with the cognitive task at hand, while in fact, they evolved primarily to support the control of behavior. Considering the primacy of action a novel perspective is offered. This perspective delves into how and why waves, beyond mere waveforms, enable collective behavior across various organizational scales, ranging from neurons to animal societies.