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Evolutionary Optimisation of Neuronal Processing
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Recent progress in diverse neurobiological systems has uncovered intriguing examples of evolutionary convergence and optimisation and indicates that natural selection pressures can determine the organisation of neuronal processing systems down to the molecular level. In parallel, computational and theoretical neuroscience has witnessed rapid progress in its capability to derive functionally optimised circuit architectures under realistic neurobiological constraints. In addition, phylogenomics and developmental neuroscience have opened up new avenues to reconstruct the evolutionary-developmental construction of neuronal cell types and circuits. The Priority Programme "Evolutionary Optimisation of Neuronal Processing" will provide a platform to bring biological, computational and mathematical disciplines together and support research projects that aim to uncover evolutionary principles and processes of neuronal circuit design. Successful proposals may range from the analysis of divergent specialisations of sensory systems in closely related species to projects theoretically deriving and experimentally testing predictions of computational optimisation theories and to collaborations between different experimental groups that employ identical methodologies to study convergently evolved circuits in distant lineages. While these examples do not exhaust the range of conceivable study designs, they indicate that successful proposals are expected to focus on a frontier research challenge in neural circuit evolution.
In particular, this call invites research proposals that examine the convergent evolution or evolutionary specialisation of shared core circuits (Theme A), investigate whether and how neural cells, biological circuits and systems reach absolute limits of performance (Theme B), or aim to uncover genomic trajectories of cell type and neural circuit evolution (Theme C). It is anticipated that tandem proposals by theory-experiment collaborations or pairs of groups of complementary expertise that e. g. study different species with analogous methods will be best equipped to advance these topics.
Projects suited for this Priority Programme should preferably include several of the following aims:
- Combined theoretical prediction and experimental testing of signatures for a functionally optimised organisation of a particular neuronal circuit
- Combined theoretical prediction and experimental testing of functionally optimised cellular or molecular neuronal properties
- Development of novel computational and mathematical approaches for the construction of optimised neuronal information processing systems respecting biologically realistic constraints
- Quantitative demonstration of functional-level convergence between neuronal circuit operations in distinct animal lineages
- Determining the adaptive value of functional-level divergence of circuit motives or circuit operations among closely related species
- Studies of the computational significance of connectome level evolutionary convergence/divergence between analogous/homologous neuronal circuits in distinct lineages
- Development and application of computational techniques for the objective, data-driven alignment of analogous neuronal circuit elements across species
- Assessment of molecular-level convergence between analogous cellular elements in neuronal circuits formed by bona fide convergent evolution
- Expression profiling and cell type mapping studies to reconstruct and understand neural circuit evolution
Discouraged are:
- Optimisation of neuromorphic computing architectures primarily for technological applications
- Biorobotics or cognitive robotics if not used to examine animal nervous system design principles of evolutionary relevance
- Neurological or psychological human studies if not to test predictive quantitative theories of neuronal information processing and its evolutionary optimisation
- Comparative neurobiological studies without a theoretical component based on mathematical or computational models of neuronal information processing
- Expression profiling and transcriptome and cell type mapping studies if not to examine neural circuit evolution
Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 24 May 2023.
Further Information: