Joint QBI/Physics seminar

Speaker: Professor William Bialek
Affiliation: Princeton University and The CUNY Graduate Center, USA


Percepts, thoughts, memories, and actions depend on the coordinated activity of thousands of neurons in the brain. How do we describe this coordination, and the collective behaviors that can emerge from neural networks? In the inanimate world, emergent phenomena are described in the language of statistical physics, and it is an old dream that this would also provide a productive approach to thinking about the brain. Now that experiments can monitor, simultaneously, the electrical activity of thousands of neurons, we should demand that these theoretical ideas make closer contact with experiment. I’ll describe efforts that my colleagues and I have made in this direction, using the mouse hippocampus as an example. We will see that very simple statistical physics models provide a strikingly accurate description of ~100 neurons, while ideas from the renormalization group hint at an underlying simplicity on the scale of ~1000 neurons. I hope to make clear why these somewhat abstract results are exciting for a theoretical physicist, and what they might tell us about biological function.
This is joint work with L Meshulam, JL Gauthier, CD Brody, and DW Tank.

Link to the Zoom Recording of this Physics Seminar session

Link to the QBI Events Page details

About Physics Seminars

The weekly Physics Seminar series focuses on a broad range of physics research within SMP, along with frequent presentations from visiting researchers. Seminars are usually scheduled for 1:00pm on Tuesdays.

The talks are typically more specialised than a colloquium but are often attended by staff and PhD students across a broad range of areas. Speakers are thus encouraged to include introductory material in the talks.

All SMP researchers and HDR students are encouraged to speak. Please email Tyler Neely to register your interest.

The seminars are open so there is no need to register your attendance.

Previous recorded physics seminars 


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