Brain Products Young Scientist Award 2021 presented to Dr. rer. nat. Julian Kosciessa

by Stefanie Rudrich
Head of Marketing (Brain Products)

The Brain Products Young Scientist Award is presented each year to recognize a young researcher’s outstanding publication in the field of EEG-based psychophysiological research. The winner is chosen by an independent jury, who is appointed by the managing board of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie und ihre Anwendung (DGPA).  At Brain Products, we want to have a positive impact on the fields of psychology and neuroscience and thereby award and celebrate excellent EEG research in these domains. By recognizing young scientists, we aim to support the next generation of researchers and their scientific discoveries.

Unfortunately, we could again not present the award in person this year; however, thanks to the virtual PuG conference 2021 the long tradition of the “Brain Products Young Scientist Award” could continue uninterrupted.

Brain Products Young Scientist Award Winner 2021: Julian Kosciessa

Brain Products Young Scientist Award Winner 2021: Julian Kosciessa

This year’s winner, Dr. rer. nat. Julian Kosciessa, is a postdoctoral researcher at Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Center for Lifespan Psychology, Lifespan Neural Dynamics Group) in Berlin, Germany. His research interests cover the dynamic characterization of neural rhythms and ‘neural complexity’, as well as thalamic influences on cortical dynamics and cognition.

In his awarded publication, “Thalamocortical excitability modulation guides human perception under uncertainty” [1], he and his co-authors investigated whether uncertainty modulates cortical excitability during stimulus processing to guide subsequent evidence accumulation. They found initial evidence that thalamocortical excitability adjustments guide human perception and decisions under uncertainty. Their results point to neuromodulatory changes, potentially regulated by the thalamus, that trigger behaviorally relevant switches in cortical dynamics, from alpha-rhythmic gain control to increased tonic excitability once contexts require a more faithful processing of information-rich environments.

For more details, see the original abstract (below) and don’t miss out on reading the full publication. If you’re interested in checking out more of Julian’s scientific research, visit his website or click here.

Thalamocortical excitability modulation guides human perception under uncertainty

Abstract: Knowledge about the relevance of environmental features can guide stimulus processing. However, it remains unclear how processing is adjusted when feature relevance is uncertain. We hypothesized that (a) heightened uncertainty would shift cortical networks from a rhythmic, selective processing-oriented state toward an asynchronous (“excited”) state that boosts sensitivity to all stimulus features, and that (b) the thalamus provides a subcortical nexus for such uncertainty-related shifts. Here, we had young adults attend to varying numbers of task-relevant features during EEG and fMRI acquisition to test these hypotheses. Behavioral modeling and electrophysiological signatures revealed that greater uncertainty lowered the rate of evidence accumulation for individual stimulus features, shifted the cortex from a rhythmic to an asynchronous/excited regime, and heightened neuromodulatory arousal. Crucially, this unified constellation of within-person effects was dominantly reflected in the uncertainty-driven upregulation of thalamic activity. We argue that neuromodulatory processes involving the thalamus play a central role in how the brain modulates neural excitability in the face of momentary uncertainty.

On behalf of the whole Brain Products team, congratulations, Julian, on winning this award. We will for sure continue to follow your research and wish you all the best for your future!

Reference

[1] Kosciessa, J.Q., Lindenberger, U. & Garrett, D.D.
Thalamocortical excitability modulation guides human perception under uncertainty.
Nat Commun 12, 2430 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-22511-7


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