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Applied Neuroscience Seminars

APL hosts a monthly seminar series designed to spark innovative ideas and thinking across a broad range of academic, commercial, and governmental organizations that are interested in applications of neuroscience and neurotechnology. The seminars are free and open to U.S. citizens (pre-registration is required). To register, or for more information, e-mail web-AppliedNeuroscience-contact@jhuapl.edu.

Reverse Engineering the Neural Mechanisms Involved in Speech Processing (Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 12:30–1:30 p.m.)

Speaker: Dr. Nima Mesgarani
Columbia University

The brain empowers humans and other animals with remarkable abilities to navigate their acoustic environment in highly degraded conditions. This seemingly trivial task for humans has proven extremely difficult to model and implement in machines. One crucial limiting factor has been the need for a deep interaction between two very different disciplines—neuroscience and engineering. This talk will present results of an interdisciplinary research effort to address the following fundamental questions: (1) How does the brain represent and process speech in normal and noisy conditions? (2) How could we model and implement these processes algorithmically? (3) Could we build an interface to directly read speech signals from the brain? Results of recent experiments where electrodes were surgically implanted in the auditory cortex of epilepsy patients, revealing an unprecedented view of the neural activity in the human brain, will be discussed. These findings have inspired novel speech processing algorithms that have been used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and other agencies. This integrated research approach can lead to a better scientific understanding of the brain as well as a new generation of brain–machine interfaces that eventually can allow for communication by people who have lost their ability to speak. These results have appeared in journals such as Science and Nature.

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Reverse Engineering the Brain (Wednesday, October 2, 2013)

Speaker: Dr. Dmitri “Mitya” Chklovskii
Janelia Farm Research Campus
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

The complexity of human behavior is matched by the complexity of biological hardware, which consists of 1011 neurons connected by 1015 synapses. To understand how the brain performs its function despite rigid constraints on its size and energy consumption, we are using two complementary approaches. First, we are mapping the connectome, or the wiring diagram of the brain, on the synapse level. The main challenge here is to process a large number of high-resolution micrographs to identify individual neurons and synapses. By applying modern computer-vision and machine-learning methods, we have made major progress on this front and have reconstructed a visual motion detection circuit in insects. Second, we are attempting to understand the function of individual neurons from the computational perspective. We have found that neurons specialize in processing sparse signals online, not unlike the mathematical algorithms at the cutting edge of adaptive signal processing. Combining the two approaches will allow us to model neuronal computation and build biologically inspired artificial intelligence systems.

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Press Releases

MD Students to Help APL Create a Map of the Brain

Applied Neuroscience in the News

The Future of Touch-Sensitive Prosthetic Limbs: Real-Time Sensory Information
(Science 2.0, October 14, 2013)