How theory can be used to find principles of neural circuits and behavior

Tatyana Sharpee

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Date: January 17, 2018

License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.5


Neural circuits are notorious for the complexity of their organization, and animal behavior is similarly diverse. I will discuss several different ways in which theory and statistics can contribute to organizing this complexity. First, I will discuss two theorems that together provide a framework that, in principle, makes it possible to quantify how useful a given sensory system is to an animal in the context of its motor repertoire. Second, I will describe how metabolic constraints drive specialization and diversification between neuronal cell types. This same theory can also be used to systematize our understanding of diversity within ion channels, neuropeptides, and other signaling molecules. Third, I will show how biological constraints added to large-scale models of neural circuits produce interpretable descriptions of mid-level sensory stimuli. These results reveal new organizing principles for feature selectivity in the secondary visual area V2 and drive new lines of experimental inquiry. Finally, I will discuss a tentative organizing principle for closing the loop between perception and action, and its early tests using C. elegans navigation.

Created: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018