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Adrienne Fairhall (U. of Washington): Reverse engineering neural control of behavior in Hydra

Adrienne Fairhall
December 16, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Stanford Neurosciences Building Gunn Rotunda (E241) & via Zoom

Adrienne Fairhall, PhD

Department of Physiology and Biophysics
University of Washington


Laura Driscoll (Shenoy Lab)


Hydra is a fascinating model organism for neuroscience. It is transparent; new genetic lines allow one to image activity in both neurons and muscle cells; it exhibits quite rich behavior; and it continually rebuilds itself. Hydra’s fairly simple physical structure as a two-layered fluid-filled hydrostat and the accessibility of information about neural and muscle activity open the possibility of a complete model of neural control of behavior. Toward that end, we have developed a biophysical and biomechanical model of Hydra's body that allows us to transform measured neural activity into behavior.


Adrienne Fairhall is a Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and adjunct in the Departments of Physics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Washington. She obtained her Honors degree in theoretical physics from the Australian National University and a PhD in statistical physics from the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she worked on the statistics of turbulent plumes. In her postdoctoral work she transitioned to working on neural coding. She joined the UW faculty in 2004 and now co-directs the University of Washington’s Computational Neuroscience Center. She has directed the MBL course, Methods in Computational Neuroscience and co-directs the UW/Allen Workshop on the Dynamic Brain.  She has held fellowships from Burroughs-Wellcome, the McKnight Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and the Allen Family Foundation. As a theorist, she collaborates with experimentalists working in a wide range of systems, from hydra to primates. Her work focuses on the interplay between cellular and circuit dynamics in neural computation, with a particular interest in adaptive and state-dependent neural coding.

Curriculum Vitae

Related papers
[1] Alison I Weber, Adrienne L Fairhall. The role of adaptation in neural coding, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, Volume 58, 2019, Pages 135-140, ISSN 0959-4388,

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Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
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