Mobilisation of neural resources for temporal attention



Effective use of information gathered from the sensory rich environment is often guided by temporal representations of past experiences. Pre-existing knowledge of the timing of events is critical for all mammals to produce efficient behavioural outcomes. This project investigates the hidden potential underlying multisensory processing during temporal attention.

Principal Investigators

CRC 1436 member Eike Budinger

Prof. Dr. Eike Budinger

CRC 1436 member Toemme Noesselt

Prof. Dr. Toemme Noesselt

CRC 1436 member Janelle Pakan

Prof. Dr. Janelle Pakan 

Prof. Dr. Eike Budinger

Eike Budinger studied biology at the Humboldt University in Berlin with a focus on zoology, behavioural biology and microbiology and then at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LIN) Magdeburg in the “Acoustics, Learning and Language” department with Prof. Henning Scheich where he studied the functional organization of the auditory cortex. Since then, he has been a research scientist at the LIN studying acoustics, learning, and systems physiology as well as at the Medical Faculty of the Otto von Guericke University (OvGU) Magdeburg. He has headed the “Functional Neuroanatomy” project group since 2005 and the 9.4 Tesla “Small Animal MRI Laboratory” since 2017. He habilitated in 2015 at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the OvGU and received the title of adjunct professor in 2021.

Prof. Dr. Toemme Noesselt

Toemme Noesselt is the Chair of the Biological Psychology Department of the Institute of Psychology. He studied Psychology and Philosophy at the Universities of Heidelberg, Düsseldorf and UCLA, USA, completed his PhD at the University of Magdeburg and a PostDoc at the UCL, UK in Jon Driver’s lab. His research aims at identifying the neural underpinnings of multisensory perception and memory by combining behavioural with electrophysiological and brain-imaging read-outs.   

Prof. Dr. Janelle Pakan 

Janelle Pakan is Group Leader of the Neural Circuits & Network Dynamics research group funded by the Center for Behavioural Brain Sciences at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg. She completed her PhD work in Canada at the University of Alberta and postdoc work at UBC before relocating to Europe to complete Fellowships in Ireland and at the University of Edinburgh. Her research is focused on understanding the functional neural circuits that underlie the transformation of sensory information to behavioural output in both health and disease states. She utilizes functional neuroanatomical techniques and advanced two-photon imaging in behaving mice in combination with virtual environments.


CRC 1436 member Julia Henschke

Dr. Julia Henschke

CRC 1436 member Linda Sempf

Linda Sempf

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Dr. Peter Vavra

CRC 1436 member Adrian Wendlandt

Tim Adrian Wendlandt

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Patricia Wenk

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Annabell Ernst

Dr. Julia Henschke

Julia Henschke is Postdoc at the  Neural Circuits & Network Dynamics research group at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg. She studied biosystems engineering and neuroscience and completed her PhD at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg. Her research interest focuses on the functional anatomy of sensory-motor systems using a combination of two-photon imaging and neuroanatomical techniques.

Tim Adrian Wendlandt

After finishing his Master’s studies in Medical Biology with specialisation in Neuroscience at Radboud University in the Netherlands, Adrian started working as a PhD candidate for the SFB in July of 2021. In the Pakan lab at the IKND, he investigates the neuronal circuits and information processing that underlie temporal expectations in mice. His research applies a combination of 2-photon imaging in the posterior parietal cortex during a cue-target task paradigm and, in collaboration with Eike Budinger, fMRI methods.

What are temporal expectations?

Information from past experiences regarding the timing of events is crucial to enhance performance in an ongoing situation. Imagine a sprinter preparing for the ‘ready, set, go’ signal – efficient temporal expectations can win the race and errors in expectation can result in disqualification. These formations of sensory-driven temporal expectations require learning mechanisms in the brain to establish the timing of incoming sensory input as well as the underlying neural resources to form expectations about future events. This dynamic processing requires coordination between primary sensory systems, association sensory areas (such as the posterior parietal cortex), and executive centres in the prefrontal cortex. However, many questions remain regarding the underlying neural resources supporting the formation of temporal expectations in the brain and how information processing across multiple sensory systems can alter these dynamics.

Multisensory representations
of the environment

Real world events often stimulate more than one sensory modality – for instance, under normal conditions we rarely see without hearing. Since natural environments constantly present us with random and noisy sensory stimulation through which we must interpret behaviourally relevant information, utilising input from multiple senses may enhance our perceptual representations and allow us to form more efficient temporal expectations to improve behavioural outcomes. However, knowledge about temporal regularities may not always be easily transferred across sensory modalities and the way we use multisensory cues can differ across our lifespan, with the elderly often benefiting more from multisensory stimulus representations. Therefore, in this project we employ combinations of unisensory and multisensory input to probe the mobilisation of neural resources during temporal processing.

Neural circuits:
from mice to men

The posterior parietal cortex is known to play a role in multisensory integration and temporal attention and is ideally positioned to integrate information from both primary sensory cortices and executive control centers in the prefrontal cortex. From humans to rodents, reciprocal connections with primary sensory cortices provide specific sensory inputs to the posterior parietal cortex, but also process task-dependent information. Reciprocal connections with the prefrontal cortex may play an important role in associative memory formation and feedback processing. Recent work on the effect of expectancy based on the presentation of temporally predictable stimulus sequences has revealed that humans and animals are able to extract regularities. While neuroimaging techniques allow us to investigate task-specific changes in fMRI responses in humans, mice offer the additional advantage to directly observe and manipulate activity within neuronal circuits down to the single-cell level. To this end, we relate behavioural readouts with fMRI in humans and two-photon calcium activity in mice, and directly compare fMRI readouts between species. Therefore, on the micro- and meso-scale level, our project targets local neurocircuitry within mouse posterior parietal cortex, as well as intracortical circuits on the macro-scale, also involving prefrontal cortex and sensory-specific areas in both humans and animals.

Project goals

The central aim of this project is to understand the mobilisation of neural resources governing the use of the temporal structure of multisensory information across learning and with ageing. In particular, we focus on frontoparietal and primary sensory-parietal circuits as dynamic neuronal resources and investigate how predictions regarding the sequential timing of incoming sensory stimuli are utilised for enhanced efficiency and speed of information processing, ultimately resulting in a successful goal-directed behavioural outcome. To this end, we will use variations of an audiovisual cue-target paradigm with known/unknown temporal expectancy about target events. Assessment of interindividual variability will establish differences in the use of these neuronal circuits across learning strategies and underlying memory retention in both young and aged individuals.

Long-term perspective and impact

Ultimately, we aim to understand the underlying neural resources that allow us to continuously adapt to incoming sensory information. Looking forward, we will utilise the analysis results towards enhanced MRI techniques across both human and animal experiments. We will further investigate the local dynamics across cortical layers in relation to the mobilisation of neural resources during multisensory learning paradigms in the posterior parietal cortex and other task-related brain regions. Ultimately, this knowledge will drive further experiments to specifically manipulate task-dependent neural circuits during behaviour and to develop neurobiologically plausible computational models.

Publications of the project B06