Photo: Thor Nielsen/NTNU

Congratulations to Professor May-Britt Moser and the research community at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, who were awarded a new Centre of Excellence (CoE) today!

The Centre for Algorithms in the Cortex (CAC) aims to reveal the algorithms that the cerebral cortex uses for cognitive functions.

This is how Professor May-Britt Moser describes the content of the new CoE that she will lead:

“The algorithms are the sets of rules that neurons follow to perform functions.  The reason for our ignorance in this field today is that the information in the cortex is distributed across billions of small synapses, which are tiny points of contact between groups of neurons that are mixed and dispersed at the same time.

We have taken part in developing new tools and methods for studying large populations of neurons that work together and are active at the same time.

In CAC, we have put together 12 research groups at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience. Our vision is to apply and develop new technologies to identify and understand fundamental sets of rules that the cortex uses to calculate and create cognitive functions.

Building on knowledge accumulated from previous Centres of Excellence

We have a great advantage in that we can build on the accumulated knowledge from our two previous Centres of Excellence and the insight we gained through the research on the hippocampal entorhinal network, which led to the Nobel Prize for our researchers in 2014.

To pave the way for this paradigm shift, we have recruited a new generation of independent researchers who will study large-scale data from various higher-order cortical systems, at different stages of development and in different species, and develop theoretical models for how the brain works.

The aim is to identify codes in neural circuits in these data. In this way, CAC will become a pioneer in the next decade’s deep dive into the mechanistic foundation for cognition.

This knowledge will be important for understanding what happens in the brain when it is affected by disease, as in dementia.

Outcomes and impacts

While the discovery of cortical computational algorithms will drive the development of a number of scientific disciplines – from biology to mathematics and artificial intelligence – it will also contribute to understanding, diagnosis and eventually treatment of cortical neurological and psychiatric diseases that as of today have no cure.

Such diseases account for a major share of today’s health burden. In a concerted effort with the co-localized K.G. Jebsen Centre for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) we shall use CAC insights from the healthy brain to fight neurodegenerative diseases.

CAC will leave an impact on Norwegian science that extends beyond its contribution to solving specific scientific questions. We shall foster rising research leaders from new emerging research fields and, with them, establish a highrisk high-gain collaborative research environment that will transcend the era of the Nobel-awarded discoveries in the brain’s space circuit as well as the proposed agenda for CAC.