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Thilo Womelsdorf

Associate Professor of Psychology

Dr. Womelsdorf is head of the Attention Circuits Control lab studying how neural circuits learn and control attentional allocation in nonhuman primates and humans.

His laboratory uses

• Attention and learning paradigms utilizing 3D virtual reality rendering to understand complex behaviors during reinforcement learning.

• Multi-area electrophysiological recordings to understand cell-to-network activity dynamics subserving learning behaviors.

• Behavioral reinforcement learning modelling to formally grasp the fundamental principles of behavioral control.

• Anatomical multi-tracer techniques to understand the physical basis giving rise to neural communication.

• Neuromodulation approaches such as electrical micorstimulation and pharmacological challenges to test causal hypotheses about cell and circuit motifs implementing attentional control and learning functions.

Before arriving at Vanderbilt he led a systems neuroscience lab in Toronto (York Univ.), receiving in 2017 the prestigious E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship for his work bridging the cell- and network- levels of understanding how brain activity dynamics relate to behavior.

Dr. Womelsdorf received his PhD at the German Primate Center (Göttingen University) with Prof. S. Treue on visual attention and spatial tuning. He did his postdoctoral training in the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (Netherlands) with Prof. P. Fries on neuronal communication and synchronization and at the Robarts Research Institute (London, Ontario) with Prof. S. Everling on cognitive control in prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex.


Lab Website

Representative Publications

• Voloh B, Womelsdorf T (2017) Cell-type specific burst firing interacts with theta and beta activity in prefrontal cortex during attention states. Cerebral Cortex.

• Hassani SA, Oemisch M, Balcarras M, Westendorff S, Ardid S, van der Meer MA, Tiesinga P and Womelsdorf T (2017) A computational psychiatry approach identifies how alpha-2A noradrenergic agonist Guanfacine affects feature-based reinforcement learning in the macaque. Scientific Reports. doi:10.1038/srep40606

• Womelsdorf T, Everling S (2015) Long-Range Attention Networks: Circuit Motifs Underlying Endogenously Controlled Stimulus Selection. Trends in Neurosciences 38(11):682-700.

• Voloh B, Valiante TA, Everling S, Womelsdorf T (2015) Theta gamma coordination between anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex indexes correct attention shifts. PNAS, Proceedings National Academy of Science, USA. 112(27):8457-62.

• Womelsdorf T, Valiante T, Sahin NT, Miller KJ, Tiesinga, P (2014) Dynamic circuit motifs underlying rhythmic gain control, gating and integration. Nature Neuroscience. 17, 1031–1039.

• Womelsdorf, T., Schoffelen, J.M., Oostenveld, R., Singer, W., Desimone, R. Engel, A.K. & Fries, P. (2007) Modulation of neuronal interactions through neuronal synchronization. Science. 316, 1609-1612.

• Womelsdorf, T., Fries, P., Mitra, P.P. & Desimone, R. (2006) Gamma-band synchronization in visual cortex predicts speed of change detection. Nature. 439, 733-6.