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Thesis defence: Diogo Pata

Thesis defence: Diogo Pata



The dynamics of hippocampal coding: beyond the spatial metaphor


Dr. Diogo Pata

Thesis supervisor: Dr. Paul F.M.J. Verschure.



Thesis Brief Description:

Navigation is at the core of several cognitive processes performed in our everyday life. Either going from home to work, from the kitchen to the living room or even along the supermarket corridors, we constantly navigate within those environments to achieve a goal. However, what are the neural and behavioral mechanisms behind navigation aren’t completely understood. In this thesis, we have deployed computational and physiological techniques to further understand the role of the hippocampus in the formation of spatial memories. Specifically, we have looked into how do animals form a spatial representation via the hippocampal neural code and how the hippocampus “simulates” future trajectories to reach the desired goal. Moreover, in collaboration with the Epileptic Unit of the Hospital del Mar, we have recorded the brain activity of patients while playing video games. 

We have found that the same mechanisms of spatial representation are sufficient to perform sensory prediction and novelty detection and that human hippocampal theta serves as a physiological mechanism of sensory chunking. Together, we highlighted how we form memories of our everyday life experiences.



Experience as a PhD Student:

During my stay at UPF conducting my PhD thesis, I’ve experienced some of the most rewarding as well as challenging moments of my career. I’ve continually received support from the SPECS research group both at the scientific and logistics level. 

Thanks to the educational program, I have developed so many scientific abilities and have grown up personally, during these years spent at UPF.