Bijan Pesaran

Associate Professor of Neural Science

Cerebral cortex contains a mosaic of brain areas that are connected to form distributed networks. In frontal and parietal cortex, these networks are specialized for movements such as saccadic eye movements and reaches. Before each movement we decide to make, these areas contain specific patterns of neural activity which can be used to predict what we will do. My research investigates the dynamics of neuronal activity to understand how brain areas interact during decision-making and tries to “decode” neuronal activity to predict our choices.In addition to recordings of neuronal action potentials, the analysis of local field potential (LFP) activity is an important tool in our investigations. LFP activity is believed to reflect local synaptic activity in a population of cells near the recording electrode. In earlier work, we have shown that oscillations in the LFP predict the direction of a movement and that these oscillations are coherent with the action potentials of single cells. More recently, we have also shown the activity of single cells is correlated with LFP activity across frontal and parietal cortex during decision making. This suggests a decision circuit may be activated between these areas.

Currently, one line of research in the lab examines the neural mechanisms underlying the variability in our movement choices. Another line of research examines decision making for coordinated arm and eye movements. Overall, our goals are to determine how activity across different brain areas reflects movement planning and decision making.