Lecture: Suspicious Coincidences in the Brain
- By Joshua E. Brown
“Brains need to make quick sense of massive amounts of ambiguous information with minimal energy costs,” notes computer scientist and neurobiologist Terrence Sejnowski.
How brains do that is an area of rapidly expanding research — and Sejnowski is one of the field’s most celebrated investigators.
Sejnowski will speak on one of these brain tricks — a remarkable way that neurons efficiently represent visual information — on Friday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Davis Auditorium at Fletcher Allen Health Care.
His lecture, “Suspicious Coincidences in the Brain,” is free and open to the public.
Sejnowski is the Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he directs their Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. He is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and holds academic appointments at the University of California, San Diego.
In his lecture, Sejnowski will focus on a strange brain phenomena called a “spike coincidence” in which a group of brain cells — neurons — fire at the same time.
“I will show how rare spike coincidences can be used efficiently to represent important visual events,” Sejnowski says.
And these coincidences are part of a larger suite of signals, both biochemical and electrical -- some “analog," “some “digital,” he says — that the brain uses to efficiently handle visual inputs.
Going further, Sejnowski will describe how this brain architecture can be reproduced with computer technologies to “simplify the early stages of visual processing.”
This work is part of the long-range goal of Sejnowski's laboratory to understand the computational powers of brains and to find the principles that link a brain to behavior.
Terry Sejnowski has published more than 300 scientific papers and 12 books, including The Computational Brain, with Patricia Churchland. He was elected an IEEE Fellow in 2000, an AAAS Fellow in 2006, to the Institute of Medicine in 2008, the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 and the National Academy of Engineering in 2011.
His lecture is jointly sponsored by the University of Vermont’s Complex Systems and Neuroscience, Behavior and Health Spires as part of UVM’s Complex Systems Speaker Series.
The Davis Auditorium is located on the concourse between the Given Building and the west pavilion wing of Fletcher Allen Health Care.