Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Congratulations are in order for Sir Henry Dale Fellow Dr Armin Lak who has been awarded a Starting Grant from the European Research Council. His funded project will investigate the neural circuits for learning under perceptual uncertainty.

© Aeron Laffere, Lak Group
Dopamine release in the striatum as a mouse learns to make decisions.

We learn to make decisions that yield the largest and most likely rewards. Several brain regions participate in this process, yet the precise mechanisms of how the brain learns remain unclear.  A new ERC Starting Grant of more than £1.25 million will allow the Lak Lab to address a fundamental question in neuroscience: How does the brain learn to make efficient decisions in an uncertain world? With funding secure over the next five years, Dr Armin Lak and his team of researchers will embark on a new project investigating neural bases of long-term learning under uncertainty. Dr Lak said: “This is an uncharted space of research entailing significant risk and promising scientific breakthrough."

The Lak Lab will harness a wealth of cutting-edge techniques to approach this major and little understood area. New large-scale optical and electrophysiological technologies will allow the team to record from many neurons at the same time and conduct longitudinal monitoring of neural activity as animals learn to improve at a variety of tasks over time. Dr Lak said: “We have gathered preliminary data that shows the feasibility of this approach, and we will be employing these new tools to examine neural bases of learning at an unprecedented spatial and temporal scale. We have the tools, resources and data-driven hypotheses to address this fundamental question.”

On receipt of the award, Dr Lak said: “DPAG has been an exceptional place supporting us to focus on our key research questions and collect experimental data necessary for this grant. My group is collaborating with several others within the department, providing an ideal setting which allows us to discuss, develop and refine novel research ideas, leading to this grant proposal. I am thankful to my lab members and colleagues across the department for creating this stimulating intellectual environment.” 

“The prospect of a scientific breakthrough and the joy of working with a diverse team of bright scientists in my lab are the most important things I am looking forward to. This ERC grant is a game changer for us, given its focus on basic discovery science and the risks that such research entails.”

More information about the lab’s research can be found on the Lak Group website.

More information about the ERC Starting Grants can be found on the European Research Council website.

Similar stories

Oxford researchers part of major UK initiative to understand chronic pain

Oxford pain researchers are playing a major role in a new multi-million pound research programme launched by a consortium of funders, including UKRI, Versus Arthritis, Eli Lilly and the Medical Research Foundation.

Unique study of vascular disease reaches 20th anniversary

The only project of its kind anywhere that studies patients with all types of acute vascular events - including strokes, heart attacks, aneurysms - in order to develop better diagnostic tests and treatments celebrates its 20th anniversary this month.

DPAG launches “Body, Brain, Behavior: Three Views and a Conversation” in Oxford

The Oxford Book Launch 'Body Brain Behavior - The Need For Conversations' brought together three world leading scientist authors, Professor Zoltán Molnár and Yale Professors Tamas Horvath and Joy Hirsch, with Oxford's neuroscience community on Thursday 7 April 2022.

Little understood brain region linked to how we perceive pain

A new review paper, published in the journal Brain, has shown that a poorly understood region of the brain called the claustrum may play an important role in how we experience pain.