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Wolf Singer

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolf Singer studied Medicine in Munich and Paris; he obtained his MD from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and his PhD from the Technical University in Munich.

He is a director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, and a Founding Director for both the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) and of the Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI) for Neuroscience, in Cooperation with the Max Planck Society.

His research is focused on the neuronal substrate of higher cognitive functions, and especially on the question how the distributed sub-processes in the brain are coordinated and bound together in order to give rise to coherent perception and action. His research focuses on the analysis of neuronal processes in the mammalian cerebral cortex that underlie higher cognitive functions and their deterioration in disease.

Of particular interest to his group is the question of how the information provided by sensory stimuli or prior experience is encoded. They believe that the evolution of the neocortex introduced novel strategies of information processing that go beyond the capacity of neural systems utilizing essential amplitude (discharge rate) modulations and labelled lines as coding space. Currently, they are pursuing the hypothesis that further relevant information is contained in the precise temporal relations between the discharges of distributed neurons; and in the case of oscillatory activity, in the phase relations between oscillating cell populations. Examining temporal relations among the activity of distributed neurons requires simultaneous recordings from multiple neurons. The strategy common to all projects is, therefore, to obtain massive parallel recordings from multiple cortical sites, to study the resulting high dimensional response patterns with advanced methods of time series analysis, and to establish relations with specific stimulation conditions and/or cognitive and executive functions. In most of their projects, they use the visual system as a model. To study neural dynamics with cellular resolution, they record from anaesthetized cats and awake macaque monkeys trained to perform cognitive tasks involving perceptual decisions, short term memory and prediction. The electrophysiological measurements in nonhuman primates are complemented by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) for the identification of functional networks at a more global scale.

ImageThink has kindly provided a graphic summary of this year’s panel discussion: