Sloan-Swartz Centers Annual Summer Meeting

Del Mar, CA, July 26-29, 2003

Introduction & Overview

The 8th annual summer meeting of the Sloan-Swartz Centers for Theoretical

Neurobiology was held in Del Mar, Ca. from July 26 through July 29, 2003.

More than 65 people were present including 14 specially invited “alumni” of

the centers — post docs who have taken regular academic positions at

universities or research institutions. In addition, 10 senior faculty members

provided presentations alongside talks by post-docs and pre-docs. A number

of local San Diego-based neuroscientists also attended.


The presentations covered a full spectrum of neurobiology topics…vision

and auditory; motor and motor prosthesis; learning and memory; and

the basic elements of spike analysis, neural circuits and synapse modeling.


As usual, there was a strong concentration on primary visual cortex modeling,

with new contributions to old topics such as distinctions and relations between

simple and complex cells, feed forward and feedback with inhibitory

interneurons, noise considerations, etc.  E. Chichilnisky's work on the retina,

using very large electrodes with 500 contacts, was well received. Contributions

to motion detection and tracking, as well as to auditory physiology based on

new bird song data and analytical methods, were also presented. A. Doupe’s

talk on the role of the basal ganglia in songbird learning behavior provoked

thought because of its possible implications for dopaminergic-driven reward

and leaning systems in other species.


The Centers' continuing interest in basic spike generation behavior, the

information content of spike trains, and plasticity effects at synapses was

represented across a series of talks.


Richard Andersen and Bijan Pesaran of Cal Tech provided an update on their

work in motor prostheses which makes use of the “planning center” they

discovered in vision motor neural transduction that occurs in reaching motions

stimulated by visual cues. This center, located in the parietal cortex, has been

thoroughly explored and both extracellular spike trains and field potential

recordings can now be taken from it before the downstream motor cells are

activated. Joel Burdick, a department chair at Cal Tech working with Andersen’s

lab, presented a novel design for adaptive EEG electrodes aimed at long-term

implacement. Progress has been made to develop electrodes that will adjust

themselves spatially from weaker to stronger cell signals.


In general, these topics have become familiar to Sloan-Swartz meeting

participants, so it was gratifying to see new contributions of high value being

made by the Centers in highly developed areas of theoretical and computational

neurobiology.  A new topic from Terry Sejnowski (Salk Institute) gave a first look

at a large-scale computational model that deals, at the molecular level, with

calcium in the neighborhood of dendrite spines, modeling the physical structures

and the chemical diffusions and flows. And Paul Kulesa, who had been a post

doc at Cal Tech, reported on his long-term experiments and modeling at the

cellular level on initial neural development in vertebrates.


The meeting exhibited the high quality, variety, and theoretical excellence of the

Centers’ work. The presentations of “alumni” showcased the Centers'

accomplishments over the past 8 years. It is important to note the increasing

extent of cross-Center communication and collaboration. The summer meetings

provide excellent cross-talk channels, especially for younger theoreticians.


At the banquet, the Center directors, Jerry Swartz and others thanked Hirsh

Cohen, now retired from the Sloan Foundation, for his early efforts in starting

the Centers. Jerry Swartz announced that the Swartz Foundation will continue

to support research at the Centers, fulfilling the Foundation’s strategic intent.

He also announced that the Swartz Foundation has moved forward with

a sixth Computational Neuroscience Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Notably, almost all the theoreticians at CSHL are Sloan-Swartz alumni.


The detailed program and many presentations from the meeting are also available

on this site.




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