Mini-syllabus

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NB204
Spring 2013
Unit #3 (Feb. 13), Information and neural computations
Rachel Wilson ([email protected])
In Wednesday’s lecture, we will develop the concept of an information theoretical analysis of neural
activity. This lecture will build on ideas that we encountered in the Unit 1 discussion section, but we will
cover these ideas in more detail, and more rigorously. We will also discuss some general lessons that
information theory can teach us about neural codes and neural computations. Next, we will explore the
idea that natural receptive field structures are governed by some basic principles. Some of these
principles are understandable from an information theoretic viewpoint, but others are not. Finally, we
will discuss the idea that many neural computations are understandable only from the perspective of
behavioral action selection and the organism’s particular ecology.
Note that there is no discussion section on Monday (President’s Day), and therefore no homework. If
you would like to read more more about information theory, these papers may be of interest:
P. Reinagel, “Information theory in the brain”, Curr Biol. 2000 10:R542-4.
A. Borst, F.E. Theunissen, “Information theory and neural coding.”, Nat Neurosci. 1999 2:947-57.
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