NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY
The goal of the parent grant is to establish a Center for Visual and Cognitive Neuroscience at North Dakota State University. One Center initiative consists in a translational and collaborative project lead by Dr. Stéphane Rainville that aims to accelerate the pace of R & D for a safe, rapid, behavioral/non-invasive cost-saving diagnostic tool sensitive to early symptoms of neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease (PD), schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease in which the temporal coherence of neural dynamics is compromised. Dr. Rainville's basic research program investigates causal links between neurophysiological and behavioral data as they pertain to the temporal correlation (TC) hypothesis – the fundamental concept that neurons synchronize their outputs to signal their inclusion into temporary cell assemblies required for particular computations. Dr. Rainville has already demonstrated the effectiveness of a "two-probe" behavioral paradigm that, according to his computational models heavily rooted in neuronal physiology, is able to measure the behavioral correlate of synchronous neuronal outputs. Behavioral data from Rainville's laboratory match modeling predictions and are therefore extremely encouraging.
Acquiring hands-on expertise in physiological data collection and analysis (as it relates to the TC hypothesis) is the critical missing link for validating the potential of the "two-probe" paradigm as a quick, cheap, and easy diagnostic tool for neurological disorders involving a breakdown in the temporal coherence of neural signals. Indeed, the litmus test for any neurocomputational model is to jointly predict physiological and behavioral outcomes. To accelerate the physiological component of Dr. Rainville's translational research, this project proposes to enable training opportunities with the laboratory of Dr. Charles Schroeder – a top scientist at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in New York City – whose expertise lies chiefly in investigating the physiology of TC through electroencephalographic and single-cell methodologies. Dr. Schroeder has kindly agreed to train Dr. Rainville and his students in physiological measurement techniques (see letter of support), and both he and Dr. Rainville expect it to grow into collaborative efforts involving cross-fertilization and synergy between their shared ideas yet complementary methodologies for investigating TC and translating findings to clinical settings. This proposal also includes provisions for key staff retention and hiring, enhancement of career profiles, and expertise dissemination.