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Anqi Wu: Understanding the brain using interpretable machine learning models

Anqi Wu
January 11, 2022 - 10:00am to 11:00am
Stanford Neurosciences Building, Gunn Rotunda (E241) & via Zoom

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Computational neuroscience is a burgeoning field embracing exciting scientific questions, a deluge of data, an imperative demand for quantitative models, and a close affinity with artificial intelligence. These opportunities promote the advancement of data-driven machine learning methods to help neuroscientists deeply understand our brains. In particular, my work lies in such an interdisciplinary field and spans the development of scientifically-motivated probabilistic modeling approaches for neural and behavior analyses. In this talk, I will first present my work on developing Bayesian methods to identify latent manifold structures with applications to neural recordings in multiple cortical areas. The models are able to reveal the underlying signals of neural populations as well as uncover interesting topography of neurons where there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about the brain. Discovering such low-dimensional signals or structures can help shed light on how information is encoded at the population level, and provide significant scientific insight into the brain. Next, I will talk about probabilistic priors that encourage region-sparse activation for brain decoding. The proposed model provides spatial decoding weights for brain imaging data that are both more interpretable and achieve higher decoding performance. Finally, I will introduce a series of works on semi-supervised learning for animal behavior analysis and understanding. I will show that when we have a very limited amount of human-labeled data, the semi-supervised learning frameworks can well resolve the scarce data issue by leveraging both labeled and unlabeled data in the context of pose tracking, video understanding, and behavioral segmentation. By actively working on both neural and behavioral studies, I hope to develop interpretable machine learning and Bayesian statistical approaches to understanding neural systems integrating extensive and complex behaviors, thus providing a systematic understanding of neural mechanisms and biological functions.


Anqi Wu is an Assistant Professor at the School of Computational Science and Engineering (CSE), Georgia Institute of Technology. She was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University, working with Dr. Liam Paninski and Dr. John Cunningham. She received her Ph.D. in Computational and Quantitative Neuroscience with Dr. Jonathan Pillow and a graduate certificate in Statistics and Machine Learning from Princeton University. Anqi received the USC Chevron Fellowship and was selected for the 2018 MIT Rising Star in EECS. Her research interest is to develop scientifically-motivated Bayesian statistical models to characterize structure in neural data and behavior data in the interdisciplinary field of machine learning and computational neuroscience. She has a general interest in building data-driven models to promote both animal and human studies in the system and cognitive neuroscience.

Event Sponsor: 
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute and Stanford Data Science
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