Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience / Centre for Neural Computation
Phone: +47 451 64 390 or +47 73 59 82 68
Jonathan Whitlock was a graduate student of Mark Bear, first at Brown University, then MIT. For his thesis work he used a combination of biochemical and electrophysiological techniques to demonstrate that synaptic connections in the hippocampus grew stronger as a consequence of single-trial learning in rats.
Whitlock then took a post-doctoral position with Edvard and May-Britt Moser in Trondheim, Norway, characterizing and comparing navigational representations across parietal and entorhinal cortices in freely-behaving rats.
Dr. Whitlock now has his own group at the Kavli Institute under the auspices of a recently awarded ERC starting grant, with a focus on unraveling the neural circuits involved in action-planning and action understanding.
Cognitive motor functions in cortex
The aim of my group is to describe the population coding of goal-directed movement intentions in the parietal and frontal areas of neocortex. By describing how these circuits work, we hope to also shed light on how we understand the actions of others.
In everyday life we continuously plan and execute purposeful movements, and without any effort we are able to comprehend the goals of the actions of others. Extensive amounts of work in humans and monkeys have demonstrated that the parietal-frontal pathway to a large extent mediates action planning and action understanding, but the cellular and anatomical bases for these functions remain largely unknown.
The central goal for the Whitlock group is to describe how neuronal populations in parietal and frontal areas give rise to targeted movement plans, and to understand the causal contribution of the anatomical inputs which link these areas together. By exploiting the technical advantages of the rodent preparation, including multi-tetrode recordings, optical silencing and imaging, the Whitlock group aims to shed light on the cortical elements which compute goal-directed navigational behavior, and possibly even action understanding, in awake, behaving animals.