Statistics Seminar: "Mathematical approaches to the study of the brain"

Gaia Tavoni, Washington University in Saint Louis

Abstract: Mathematics and physics provide powerful tools for addressing central questions in neuroscience. I will illustrate this by way of a few examples. In the first part of the talk, I will show how statistical mechanics methods based on the inference and simulation of graphical models allow extraction of informative patterns from high dimensional neural data. I will present applications of these techniques to the reconstruction of the functional connectivity of neural circuits and to the study of memory formation and consolidation in the brain. In the second part of the talk, I will focus on statistical and biophysical approaches to perceptual learning. Specifically, I will illustrate a robust statistical mechanism whereby unstructured contextual feedback from the central brain to peripheral sensory areas can drive merging and separation of cortical responses to sensory stimuli, underpinning perceptual generalization and discrimination. Lastly, I will introduce biophysical modeling ideas to explore the function of adult neurogenesis, a striking form of plasticity found in the olfactory system, in sensory processing and perception.

Host: Nan Lin