SP 2

The role of human dopamine neurons in perceptual inference

Human single unit recordings from the substantia nigra during deep brain stimulation. Schematic drawing of the neurosurgical implantation of electrodes into the midbrain. Dopamine neurons are found in the substantia nigra.

The research collaboration "PsychoSys" will investigate the biological basis of the formation of delusions, the core symptom of psychosis. In this innovative subproject, we will perform measurements of the electrical activity of human dopamine neurons in deep-brain stimulated neurosurgical patients in combination with behavioral experiments. Delusional experiences are hypothesized to arise from dysfunction in the brain’s inferencing mechanisms, whereby new sensory events in the environment are not properly integrated with learned predictions. The neurotransmitter dopamine might play a critical role in the process because medication used to treat psychosis targets the brain’s dopamine system. Our experiments will address the question of whether human dopamine neurons are able to indicate whether sensory predictions were met or violated. This prediction error signal might be a crucial component of the brain machinery that creates a stable and “predictable” sensory environment. This subproject could contribute to an in-depth characterization of the neuronal mechanisms by which dopamine regulates perceptual inference and thus determines how we perceive our environment in health and disease.

Schizophrenia, dopamine, perceptual inference

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