Welcome to the pecka lab
We study active sensing during natural behavior
We are interested in the mechanisms and circuits by which the brain selectively codes and processes stimuli of interest to perform defined behaviors during unrestricted self-motion.
From sensory circuits to decisions
Understanding how specific behaviors arise from neural processing is a primary goal of neuroscience. However, many current techniques require minimalistic experimental conditions, which in turn limit their ecological / real-life relevance.
Crucially, behaviors and the underlying neural processes evolved and adapted to a species’ ethological demands. Thus, a deep understanding of brain functions requires studying the brain "in natural action", i.e., during ethologically relevant behaviors.
Active sensing, i.e., voluntary self-motion to gather information about the resulting changes in sensory inputs, represents a fundamental element of such behaviors. Accordingly, we developed a new behavioral paradigm (named SIT – Sensory Island Task, Ferreiro, Amaro et al., 2020) to study how the brain selectively processes sensory information of interest during active exploration of – and orientation in – the environment.
SIT is particularly suited for studying sensory-based navigation and decision-making, but allows studying numerous aspects of naturalistic behavior during chronic brain recordings & neural modulations. Lately we also developed SIT to study human perception and navigation (Ferreiro et al., 2022).
To find out more about our research or view our publications, please use the links in the text on the right-hand column or the menu above.
The current projects in the lab are:
- Active listening: How do neural circuits process and represent behaviorally meaningful sound sources during natural self-motion? In everyday life, our ears are flooded with sounds from multiple sources while we actively explore the environment. To be able to listen selectively to one concurrently relevant sound source our brain must identify the relevant source of origin and track their location while we continuously move our head and/or body. The functional understanding of the underlying mechanisms and circuits has remained elusive, not the least because an experimental paradigm to study neuronal processing of sensory input during self-motion was lacking. Using our new behavioral paradigm SIT (Ferreiro et al., 2020; 2022), we perform multi-channel wireless chronic recordings in auditory cortex during active listening. On a general level, SIT allows us studying the role of context-specificity (e.g. relevance) for neuronal processing during ASA.
- HippoSIT: How do auditory objects or cues influence internal spatial representations and the path integration system? How does sellf motion impact those representations?
To answer these questions, we utilize the SIT paradigm (Ferreiro et al., 2020; Amaro et al., 2021) to perform chronic recordings from multiple brain regions simultaneously (such as hippocampus or retrosplenial cortex) in the freely moving and actively sensing rodent.
- spa-CI-al: We investigate synaptic and cellular mechanisms of spatial processing in individual neurons in the rodent brain stem. We also compare to what extent the apparent dissimilarities in spatial sensitivity between normal and CI-based hearing underlie central processing inefficiencies or arise already on the input level, i.e. are due to differences in the peripheral activation patterns.