Nearly two dozen of the world’s leading neuroscientists will gather in Switzerland this month to share their latest findings on the mysteries of how the brain processes information and makes decisions. 

The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute European – U.S. Workshop on the Neuroscience of Cognition, Computation, and Decisions will be held at Virginia Tech’s Center for European Studies and Architecture at Riva San Vitale in Ticino on Oct.16–18.

“We have two principal goals for this intensive workshop,” said Michael Friedlander, associate provost for health sciences at Virginia Tech and executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “First, we want to identify new and powerful integrated approaches to bridge multiple levels of understanding brain function. We are also hoping to lay the foundations for pioneering innovative and disruptive approaches to transcending disciplines and technologies across teams of leading European brain researchers and Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute neuroscientists.”

The workshop will convene 9 neuroscientists from the institute and 13 neuroscientists from prominent brain-research institutions in five European countries. 

Those institutions include the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and École Polytechnique in France; the Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Freie Universität Berlin, the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and the University of Heidelberg in Germany; the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy; École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, ETH Zürich, and the University of Zurich in Switzerland; and University College London in the United Kingdom.

Workshop participants will address emerging views of how neuronal and synaptic networks in the brain assemble, process, store, and access information and how large-scale networks of interconnected neurons perform in humans and other mammals. 

The participants will also consider the functional architecture that underlies the brain’s decision-making capacity, the neural basis of social interactions, the effects of the environment on information processing, and the consequences of a range of disorders on the function of the human brain.

Individual participants will share their newest discoveries in multiple sessions of several speakers each, followed by in-depth discussions to identify congruent perspectives and converging insights from multiple disciplines. The discoveries will represent a broad array of technological and conceptual approaches, including analysis of detailed structural and functional properties of individual neurons and synaptic networks obtained with powerful electrophysiological, genetic, and optical imaging methods; functional brain imaging and behavioral studies in individuals and groups of interacting humans; and computational analysis and modeling of brain function and behavior. 

Additional experts will address economics and game theory applications to human brain function and behavior in health and in disease; analysis of development, aging, and educational interventions on brain function; and the modulation of brain function acutely and over time in health and in various disorders that affect behavior, neural information processing, and decision-making.

“This workshop is taking place at a confluence of important national and international milestones in brain research in both Europe and the United States,” Friedlander said. “The Blue Brain Project in Europe represents a major international coalition to support large-scale, detailed analysis of the circuitry of the brain, while in the United States, President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative will support innovative new approaches to high-resolution, large-scale functional mapping of the brain. We’re hoping to harness the wisdom of experts on both continents to develop new approaches and better technologies for diagnosing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders that affect people worldwide.”

The workshop is sponsored by the Office of the President of Virginia Tech.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.