Our two names
The Kavli Institute coexists with the Centre for Neural Computation (CNC) but the scope of the Institute is broader and more long-term than that of the Centre.
While the goal of the Institute is to understand the emergence of brain functions in any system in any species, CNC was established specifically to decipher neural-network mechanisms in the space circuit of the mammalian entorhinal cortex and hippocampus.
CNC will take advantage of a recent technological revolution in neuroscience, in which transgenic interventions, optogenetics, multisite multichannel recording methods, intracelllular recording, optical imaging and computational modelling enable a synthetic understanding that was unconceivable only few years ago. Our discovery of grid cells in 2005 will be used as an access ramp for understanding the fundamental principles of brain function.
Who we are and what we want
The scientific goal of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and the Centre for Neural Computation is to advance our understanding of neural circuits and systems and their role in generating psychological functions. By focusing on spatial representation and memory, we expect to uncover general principles of neural network computation in the mammalian cortex.
CBM was established in 2002 as part of a new Centre of Excellence scheme of the Norwegian Research Council. These centres have a lifetime of 10 years, implying that CBM is wrapping up in December 2012. The Research Council decided in November 2012 that the Kavli Institute will receive funding for another centre – the Centre for Neural Computation (CNC). CNC is now established with May-Britt Moser as Director.
The ambition of CBM was, and is, to understand how information is encoded, stored and used in cortical systems and microcircuits. At the time of inauguration, CBM had two principal investigators – May-Britt and Edvard Moser – in addition to a group of visiting scientists who came annually to participate in projects in the Moser lab. Seven internationally recognized American and European neuroscientists participated in the visitor program – Bruce McNaughton, Carol Barnes, Richard Morris, Alessandro Treves, Menno Witter, Randolf Menzel, and Ole Paulsen. At the time of startup, the Mosers had a small research group consisting of 4-5 graduate students and a few technicians. The Centre has a Scientific Advisory Board with Larry Squire as chairman and Erin Schuman, Terry Sejnowski and Earl Miller as members.
The Centre-of-Excellence funding from the Research Council enabled a series of breakthroughs in our understanding of neural coding in the hippocampus and the surrounding regions. The most noteworthy contribution was the discovery of grid cells in the entorhinal cortex, which provided a metric for the brain network that makes us find our way. The discovery of grid cells was succeeded by the observation of directional cells and border cells in the entorhinal microcircuit, each contributing to a distinct aspect of the representation of self-location. These studies showed also how the outputs of the entorhinal space circuit are used by memory networks in the hippocampus, and how episodic memories are separated from each other in the early stages of the hippocampal memory storage, and it was shown how development of the grid system depends on inhibitory circuits in layer II of the entorhinal cortex. The many insights were direct results of the extensive international collaboration enabled by the Centre of Excellence scheme.
In 2005, just after the discovery of the grid cells, the Centre hosted Fred Kavli and the President of the Kavli Foundation, David Auston. This visit, as well as a number of other events, led eventually to the establishment of the fifteenth Kavli Institute at NTNU in 2007 – the fourth Kavli Institute in neuroscience in the world and the first Kavli Institute in Northern Europe. During the same year, one of the visiting members of CBM, Menno Witter, accepted a full-time position at the new Kavli Institute and he moved his entire research group to Trondheim the same year. This strengthened the anatomical profile and expertise of the Kavli Institute.
The inauguration of the Kavli Institute paved the way for expansion of the research agenda. As part of the agreement with the Kavli Foundation, NTNU offered to establish two new professorships at the institute before the end of 2012, one in computational and theoretical neuroscience and one in systems-oriented molecular neuroscience. Yasser Roudi was recruited as a group leader in theoretical neuroscience in 2010 and we recruited Clifford Kentros to the position in systems-oriented molecular neuroscience in January 2013.
When the 10 years of CBM funding were over in December 2012, the Research Council appointed a new Centre of Excellence at the Kavli Institute, with funding until 2022. The Centre for Neural Computation, CNC, was established in January 2013. The principal investigators of this centre are May-Britt Moser (Director) and Edvard Moser (co-Director), Menno Witter, Yasser Roudi, and Clifford Kentros. Additional members will be recruited. The centre has several outstanding international collaborators. Carla Shatz is the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board.