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.