The Molecular Basis of Cognition

2022 Scialog Collaborative Innovation Awards

Short for “science and dialogue,” Scialog from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement (RSCA) aims to accelerate breakthroughs by stimulating intensive interdisciplinary conversation and community-building around a scientific theme of global importance.

In October of 2022, scientists gathered in Tucson, Ariz., for a series of discussions about new ways to probe the chemistry, biology, physics and computation science that underlie memory and other cognitive processes. One outcome of the conference is funding for researchers to pursue high-risk, high-impact projects. The Kavli Foundation participates as part of the funders collective to support innovative research aligned with its mission.

The Kavli Foundation selected Evelyn Tang, a theoretical physicist at Rice University, and Christina Kim, a neuroscientist from UC Davis, to receive 2022 Scialog Collaborative Innovation Awards. They join a cohort of 17 researchers representing six projects.

Together with Dr. Lucas Pinto and Daniel Burnston, Tang will investigate network topology underlying circuit dynamics during flexible cognitive behavior – how the brain coordinates switching between internal states based on ongoing feedback from the surrounding environment. They will apply network analysis to questions in neurophysiology and behavior to learn more about how organisms incorporate information and adjust their behavior to accomplish a given task.

Kim will work with Antonio Fernandez-Ruiz to investigate the neural systems underlying how recall of memories guides decision-making and how these dynamics are linked with changes in gene expression that may be involved when new memories form. These complex processes involve molecular systems at a sub-cellular level such as gene transcription and protein synthesis to the physical changes in synapses and the reorganization of neural circuits. And while these processes have been researched in the context of memory independently, how they are interrelated is not yet known.

“Understanding the molecular basis of cognition continues to be a great challenge to the field of neuroscience,” said Amy Bernard, director of life sciences at The Kavli Foundation. “We are proud to support the bold ideas that these outstanding scientists are pursuing through these collaborative projects.”

Read about all the funded projects.