Theoretical Neuroscience Lab

We use principles of efficient coding (normative models – see below) to understand sensory processing in the brain. We specialize in understanding early visual development through an “innate learning” paradigm – the training of the early visual system on endogenously generated neural patterns.

Normative modeling, explained:

One can attempt to understand the visual system by directly measuring neural responses to stimuli, and characterizing the responses of each cell type. A vast amount of data has been and will continue to be collected in this way using fMRI, electrophysiology, EEG, etc. However, it is of prime importance to make sense of this data in a way to make it useful in other domains (e.g. AI, machine learning). A normative approach in this case would be to understand the complicated response properties as an efficient encoding of visual experience. Instead of using complicated mathematical constructs to model a neuron’s response, one can use a simple algorithm to generate the complicated response properties we see. Many modeling approaches answer the detailed questions of “what” or “how” for neural responses, but normative models also help to answer “why”. This lab uses these high-level principles to explain the varied properties of sensory neural response.