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Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Columbia University
Beginning in Sept, 2005, a new program in Theoretical Neuroscience has been established at Columbia University. Larry Abbott, formerly of the Sloan Swartz Center at Brandeis, and Ken Miller from the Sloan Swartz center at UCSF, will lead this effort. Bill Bialek (Princeton) will be a part-time researcher and lecturer. Additional faculty will be appointed in coming years.
The Swartz Foundation is supporting three research projects at Columbia. In addition, Swartz support will be used for a Visiting Scholar program (Bialek will be the first of these) and seminars, a journal club, and other activities.
Abbott and Jon Peelle, a post-doc, will study scale invariant adaptation in auditory processing. Abbott’s studies have shown the usefulness in using scale invariance to understand how cortical neurons adapt to frequency changes in stimuli over very large ranges. Power law adaptation successfully characterizes response to stimulus change in a number of nerve circuit behaviors. Abbott and Peelle will now adapt this developing theoretical approach to auditory processing. They will also study self organization of critical networks for signal propagation.
Ken Miller, working with post-doc Michael Eisele, will study some of the non-linearities found in spike timing dependent plasticity (STDP). There appear to be non-linear reactions between spikes that have a changing bearing on the eventual weight changes in synaptic efficacy and also on the pre-and post spike pairings. They will also look at how synaptic plasticity bears on the functional response properties of cortical visual cells.
In a third research effort, Abbott will collaborate with Eric Kandel to begin a new theoretical approach to the molecular basis of synaptic plasticity. Kandel, a Nobel Prize laureate for his work on the molecular bases for memory and learning, has experimentally explored the protein syntheses involved in strengthening synapses in the memory process. Abbott and Kandel observe that the time scales of these processes vary from milliseconds to days, months and years and that variation results in a large range of protein syntheses and gene transcription signaling and activation activities. Although there is a large body of experimental work in this topic, there is virtually no theory. Joyant Kulkarni will work as a post-doc with Abbott and Kandel.