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Sensory Coding & the Natural Environment
Gordon Research Conference

Dates

July 27 - August 1, 2008

Location

Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco
Lucca (Barga), Italy

Organizers

Chairs:
Eero Simoncelli & Michael J. Berry

Vice Chairs:
Adrienne Fairhall & Frederic Theunissen

Meeting Description

The scientific theme of the conference is the encoding and processing of complex natural environmental stimuli by biological systems. The conference is intended to bring together neuroscientists and psychologists interested in understanding the representation and use of such information in the brain, with researchers from engineering, physics, mathematics and other quantitative disciplines who are interested in characterizing the structure of natural sensory signals (images, sounds, odors, etc).

Traditionally, neuroscientists and psychologists have used relatively simple, "controlled" stimuli (e.g., sine-wave gratings, pure tones, spots, clicks, taps or vibration to the skin, etc) to probe the response properties of sensory neurons and characterize perceptual abilities. This approach has been successful at determining basic stimulus selectivities of neurons and in elucidating circuit mechanisms. But processing in neural circuits is highly non-linear and adaptive, so circuits can react quite differently to natural stimuli and experiments using artificial stimuli are often of limited usefulness in predicting these responses. Neural circuits are presumably encoding or extracting certain spatio-temporal patterns from the input stream, but one cannot discover the nature of these patterns by simply probing with one element at a time drawn from a limited set. Since the process of evolution has presumably built sensory systems in order to process signals from the natural environment, it seems natural that these signals can provide clues, or even be used as stimuli, in the study of sensory systems.

An interdisciplinary field has emerged in recent years that has focused on a set of inter-related questions: What are the forms of structure that tend to occur in the environment; how do we characterize these mathematically/statistically? How are these forms of structure encoded and represented by neurons in the brain? This requires not only drawing upon the methods of neurophysiology, neuroethology, and psychophysics, but also developing mathematical theories and building computational models.

Contributors

Meeting Program

SUNDAY
4:00 pm - 9:00 pmArrival and Check-in (Office Closed 6:00 pm - 7:45 pm)
6:00 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 7:35 pmWelcome / Introductory Comments by GRC Site Staff
7:35 pm - 9:30 pmScene Statistics and Principles of Nervous System Design
7:35 pm - 7:45 pmDiscussion Leaders: Michael Berry (Princeton University) & Eero Simoncelli (New York University)
7:45 pm - 8:30 pm Daniel Wolpert (University of Cambridge)
"Computational motor control; Bayesian estimation and learning"
8:30 pm - 8:37 pm Discussion
8:37 pm - 9:22 pm Roland Baddeley (University of Bristol)
"The characteristics of luminance and contrast adaptation are optimised to extract reflectance from the natural world"
9:22 pm - 9:30 pm Discussion
MONDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pmNatural Olfaction
9:00 am - 9:20 amDiscussion Leader: Gilles Laurent (California Institute of Technology)
"Computation and coding in olfaction"
9:20 am - 10:05 am Timothy Holy (Washington University in St. Louis)
"Neural detection and processing of scents from the social world"
10:05 am - 10:15 am Discussion
10:15 am - 10:40 am Coffee Break / Group Photo
10:40 am - 11:25 am Noam Sobel (Weizmann Institute of Science)
"Predicting Odor Pleasantness from Odorant Structure: Pleasantness as a Reflection of the Physical World"
11:25 am - 11:35 am Discussion
11:35 am - 12:20 pm Rachel Wilson (Harvard Medical School)
"Do the principles of olfactory coding reflect the natural statistics of odors?"
12:20 pm - 12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
4:00 pm - 5:30 pmPoster Session I [PDF]
5:30 pm - 7:30 pmAdaptation
5:30 pm - 5:45 pmDiscussion Leader: Markus Meister (Harvard University)
"Adaptation and neural coding in the retina"
5:45 pm - 6:30 pm Michael Webster (University of Nevada, Reno)
"Adaptation and Perceptual Norms"
6:30 pm - 6:37 pm Discussion
6:37 pm - 7:22 pm David McAlpine (University College London)
"Adaptive gain control in auditory scene analysis"
7:22 pm - 7:30 pm Discussion
8:00 pmDinner
TUESDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pmNatural Audition: Neural
9:00 am - 9:20 amDiscussion Leader: Kamal Sen (Boston University)
"Natural sounds and neural coding"
9:20 am - 10:05 am Tim Gentner (University of California, San Diego)
"Network and cellular mechanisms of temporal auditory pattern coding"
10:05 am - 10:15 am Discussion
10:15 am - 10:40 am Coffee Break
10:40 am - 11:25 am Jan Schnupp (Oxford University)
"On Hearing 'Things'"
11:25 am - 11:35 am Discussion
11:35 am - 12:20 pm Tatyana Sharpee (The Salk Institute)
"Robustness of multi-dimensional auditory encoding"
12:20 pm - 12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
4:00 pm - 5:30 pmPoster Session II [PDF]
5:30 pm - 7:30 pmNatural Audition: Perceptual
5:30 pm - 5:45 pmDiscussion Leader: Timothy Griffiths (Newcastle University)
"Complex sound processing in humans; music perception; degenerative disorders"
5:45 pm - 6:30 pm Joshua McDermott (University of Minnesota)
"Sound Texture Perception via Statistics"
6:30 pm - 6:37 pm Discussion
6:37 pm - 7:22 pm Rhodri Cusack (Cambridge University)
"Selective attention in audition; perception of speech and music"
7:22 pm - 7:30 pm Discussion
8:00 pmDinner
WEDNESDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pmActive Sensation
9:00 am - 9:20 amDiscussion Leader: Mathew Diamond (SISSA, Trieste)
"Active perception: Observations from the whisking system and other sensory-motor modalities"
9:20 am - 10:05 am Cynthia Moss (University of Maryland)
"Active sensing for the analysis of natural scenes by echolocating bats"
10:05 am - 10:15 am Discussion
10:15 am - 10:40 am Coffee Break
10:40 am - 11:25 am Michele Rucci (Boston University)
"Role of fixational eye movements in vision"
11:25 am - 11:35 am Discussion
11:35 am - 12:20 pm Moritz von Heimendahl (Humboldt University, Berlin)
"Neuronal activity in rat barrel cortex underlying texture discrimination"
12:20 pm - 12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
4:00 pm - 5:30 pmPoster Session III [PDF]
5:30 pm - 7:30 pmStatistical Models and Analysis of Natural Scenes
5:30 pm - 5:45 pmDiscussion Leader: Odelia Schwartz (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
"Sensory adaptation and natural scenes"
5:45 pm - 6:30 pm Matthias Bethge (Max-Planck Institute for Biologial Cybernetics)
"Sensory coding of natural images: bandpass filtering, orientation selectivity and contrast gain control"
6:30 pm - 6:37 pm Discussion
6:37 pm - 7:22 pm Richard Turner (Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, UCL)
"Probabilistic models of modulation structure in natural sounds"
7:22 pm - 7:30 pm Discussion
7:30 pm - 8:00 pmBusiness Meeting
(Nominations for the next Vice Chair; Fill out Conference Evaluation Forms; Discuss future Site & Scheduling preferences; Election of the next Vice Chair)
8:00 pmDinner
THURSDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 12:30 pmNatural Vision: Early to Mid Stages
9:00 am - 9:20 amDiscussion Leader: David Brainard (University of Pennsylvania)
"Machine vision; models of visual processing"
9:20 am - 10:05 am Emilio Salinas (Wake Forest University School of Medicine)
"How the statistics of motor activity may determine optimal sensory representations"
10:05 am - 10:15 am Discussion
10:15 am - 10:40 am Coffee Break
10:40 am - 11:25 am Larry Maloney (New York University)
"Testing Bayesian models of perception, action and cognition: The importance of unnatural scenes"
11:25 am - 11:35 am Discussion
11:35 am - 12:20 pm Dario Ringach (University of California, Los Angeles)
"The ubiquitous simple cell and how it might have evolved"
12:20 pm - 12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:00 pmFree Time
4:00 pm - 5:30 pmPoster Session IV [PDF]
5:30 pm - 7:30 pmNatural Vision: Late Stages
5:30 pm - 5:45 pmDiscussion Leader: Aude Oliva (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
"Natural Image Recognition"
5:45 pm - 6:30 pm Ed Connor (Johns Hopkins University)
"Shape Processing in Visual Cortex"
6:30 pm - 6:37 pm Discussion
6:37 pm - 7:22 pm Jitendra Malik (University of California, Berkeley)
"Contours and Junctions in Natural Images"
7:22 pm - 7:30 pm Discussion
8:00 pmDinner
FRIDAY
7:30 am - 8:30 amBreakfast
9:00 amDepart

Funding for this conference was made possible, in part, by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention by trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
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