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Research visit of Moshe Abeles

Research visit of Moshe Abeles



 During the months September – December 2012, I visited BCF. This had been a wonderful period both scientifically and socially. In the social aspects I was able to explore the most delightful city of Freiburg and its environment. Meet with many old and dear friends. Time flew by much too fast and left the taste of more. I was also able to interact with several of the center's senior members and many of the research students.

Most of my scientific work was devoted to develop and test new method for finding the instances at which several cortical areas become coordinated. This is based on the hypothesis that any non-trivial mental task involves interactions among multiple cortical areas. As the cortico-cortical connections are essentially excitatory, it is further hypothesized that when two (or more) cortical areas start to interact they excite each other and the level of activity raises. Only then the local inhibitory mechanisms will kick in and quench this global rise.

The developed methods included 3 aspects:
1. Using magnetic fields recorded around the brain (MEG) to reconstruct the local currents in multiple points (700) across the cortical surface.
2. Detect instances of brief (20 ms) transients of activity in each of these cortical points.
3. Find to what extent the distribution of these events across the cortex is specific to the mental task the subject is engaged in.

In the data analyzed there have been 5 mental tasks: Relaxation (3 periods), creating finger games in the right hand, creating finger games with the left hand, counting down from 3001 in steps of 7, recalling from memory a scene from a movie. Note that in none of these tasks there has been an external marker around which one can compute average activity or spectrum.

Yet, by dividing the records to training and test sets, it was possible to identify each of these mental tasks with less then 10% error. (In random data the error would be 80%.) The next step will be to search for sequences of inter-areal recruitments which are specific to the various mental tasks.

In my interactions with BCF's members and students I found that both the official seminars and the un-official discussions were open, candid, and highly illuminating. I found the research in the center to be of the highest international standards, well diversified among theory, basic experimental research, and applicative. It was an utmost intellectual and personal pleasure to spend time in BCF.



Moshe Abeles


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