Laboratoire des Systèmes Perceptifs
29 rue d'Ulm
75005 Paris France
Whereas all animals seem to be able to recognize abstract patterns in their environment, humans are particularly good at it, as exemplified in their ability to process symbolic systems, such as language and mathematics. This ability has been suggested to crucially rely on the prefrontal cortex, which is selectively enlarged in primates. So far, a direct cross-species comparison of the ability for abstract representations has been challenging, largely because of differences in training procedures and paradigms across species. It therefore remains unclear to what extend non-human animals can understand purely abstract rules, independent of the stimulus identity that is used to encode the rule. In this project we propose to use classical conditioning, the most basic behavioral task, to compare the implicit understanding of purely abstract rules between humans, monkeys, ferrets and mice. For the animals that have shown the ability to represent purely abstract rules, we will investigate their neural encoding in the prefrontal cortex.
While this project is focused on behavioral training in the ferret using automated training boxes, it will involve collaborative efforts from other labs working with humans, macaques, and mice. This internship can be indiscriminately conducted in English or in French.