Thilo Womelsdorf

Assistant Professor
Research Areas: Cognitive Neuroscience, Attention, Decision Making, Learning, Animal Physiology

Research Focus:

We believe that every choice and course of action - flexible-and-intelligent, or maladaptive-and-dysfunctional - has its causal origin in neuronal brain dynamics that can be identified and understood. Thus, we want to identify the neuronal implementation, the algorithms, and the cellular machinery that precede choices. We name this the search for attentional control processes in the brain. Our lab strives to understand how neuronal circuits implement control processes governing our attention. We aim to achieve this mission by acknowledging that there are multiple processes in the brain that coordinate every moment in time to decide what we attend to: Some are external to the brain (a salient event), but most are internally generated within the brain. They come from prior experience ('My memory suggests that X is relevant and valuable in such a situation?), or from 'logic and task rules' ('I need to look out for X if I want Y'), or from motivation ('I want to see this').
We study: How cells in brain learn the value of objects and select them in covert choice processes. Cell activity is measured in the human and the animal brain. How cells form cell assemblies and circuits by temporally synchronizing their activity. Synchronization is measured with a whole battery of tools that are conjointly developed with Martin Vinck and fieldtrip. How circuits form large scale brain networks who implement attentional control. We do this with fMRI analysis and with ECoG recordings of multiple brain areas. How attention and choice behavior evolves through reinforcement learning in computational models.

Representative  Publications:

Womelsdorf, T., Valiante, T.A., Sahin, N., Miller, .J., Tiesinga, P. 2014. Dynamic circuit motifs underlying rhythmic gain control, gating and integration. Nature Neuroscience

Lipsman, N., Kaping, D., Westendorff, S., Lozano, A.M., Womelsdorf, T. 2014. Beta coherence within human ventromedial prefrontal cortex precedes affective value-based choices. Neuroimage

Phillips J, Vinck M, Everling S, Womelsdorf T. 2013. A long-range fronto-parietal 5-10Hz network predicts 'top-down' controlled guidance in a task-switch paradigm. Cerebral Cortex

Kaping, D., Vinck, M., Hutchison, R.M., Everling, S. & Womelsdorf, T. 2011. Specific contributions of ventromedial, anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortex for attentional selection and stimulus valuation. PLoS Biology

Womelsdorf, T., Johnston, K., Vinck, M. & Everling, S. 2010. Theta activity in anterior cingulate cortex predicts task-rules and their adjustments following errors. Proceedings National Academy of Science, USA