Kohitij Kar, Postdoctoral Associate, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Title: Towards a neurally mechanistic understanding of visual cognition
Abstract: I am interested in developing a neurally mechanistic understanding of how primate brains represent the world through its visual system and how such representations enable a remarkable set of intelligent behaviors. In this talk, I will primarily highlight aspects of my current research that focuses on dissecting the brain circuits that support core object recognition behavior (primates’ ability to categorize objects within hundreds of milliseconds) in non-human primates. On the one hand, my work empirically examines how well computational models of the primate ventral visual pathways embed knowledge of the visual brain function (e.g., Bashivan*, Kar*, DiCarlo, Science, 2019). On the other hand, my work has led to various functional and architectural insights that help improve such brain models. For instance, we have exposed the necessity of recurrent computations in primate core object recognition (Kar et al., Nature Neuroscience, 2019), one that is strikingly missing from most feedforward artificial neural network models. Specifically, we have observed that the primate ventral stream requires fast recurrent processing via ventrolateral PFC for robust core object recognition (Kar and DiCarlo, Neuron, 2021). In addition, I have been currently developing various chemogenetic strategies to causally target specific bidirectional neural circuits in the macaque brain during multiple object recognition tasks to further probe their relevance during this behavior. I plan to transform these data and insights into tangible progress in neuroscience via my collaboration with various computational groups and building improved brain models of object recognition. I hope to end the talk with a brief glimpse of my planned future work!