Throughout evolution, the nervous system has developed the ability to not only assign the appropriate responses to certain sensory stimuli, but also to rapidly switch to a different behavioral outcome according to context. Contextual information can be static, as in the encoding of a given set of relationships between items, or vary in time, as for the sense of urgency when we are late to the train station. To enable flexible, context-dependent decision-making, the brain must implement specific computational processes that reflect contextual information and dynamically modulate the activity in the brain areas where decisions are formed. Flexibility in neural processing of sensory information occurs in a matter of seconds, an interval too short for modifications of anatomical connections between sensory and executive areas. Hence, information flow must be flexibly routed via rapid changes in the neural communication between areas.
The goal of this workshop is to discuss novel mechanisms of contextual control, with focus on fast reconfiguration of functional connectivity via circuit dynamics, neuromodulators and inhibitory pathways. How do different types of inhibitory interneurons contribute contextual control? How can neuromodulatory signals selectively amplify particular dynamical patterns despite having low dimensionality and spatial resolution? Which circuit mechanisms allow for flexible, context-dependent communication between brain areas? We are particularly interested in highlighting the commonalities and differences between these complementary mechanisms of contextual control.