Carlos Ponce - Single-Neuron Insights in the Age of Generative Models

Event Details:

Thursday, March 7, 2024
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12:00pm to 1:00pm PST
Event Sponsor
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
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Headshot of Dr. Carlos Ponce

Join the speaker for coffee, cookies, and conversation before the talk, starting at 11:45am.

Single-Neuron Insights in the Age of Generative Models


Visual cortex neurons are optimized to respond to natural images, realizing our ability to understand the world. What is the nature of this optimization? We are pursuing two overarching hypotheses about how neurons respond to natural images. One hypothesis is that in anterior visual areas, neurons encode complex features, such as objects or places. A second hypothesis is that these neurons encode niche features: attributes that are simpler than objects, just rarer and cleverly “chosen” to correlate with some object types. Do neurons have tuning for complex or niche features? In this talk, we will discuss experiments in monkey V1, V4, inferotemporal- and prefrontal cortex, using deep generative networks to identify each neuron’s critical features. We will explore similarities and differences between the visual system and artificial neural networks designed for visual tasks. Overall, our results suggest that much of our visual recognition relies on simpler features than previously believed.


Carlos Ponce, M.D., Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School


Carlos R. Ponce, M.D., Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, and previously in the Department of Neuroscience at Washington University School of Medicine. He received his B.S. in biology from the University of Utah, his Ph.D. in neuroscience, postdoctoral training, and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He studies vision in the primate brain using electrophysiology and machine-learning generative models.

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Hosted by - Daniel J O'Shea, Ph.D. (Deisseroth Lab)


The Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute seminar series brings together the Stanford neuroscience community to discuss cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary brain research, from biochemistry to behavior and beyond.

Topics include new discoveries in fundamental neurobiology; advances in human and translational neuroscience; insights from computational and theoretical neuroscience; and the development of novel research technologies and neuro-engineering breakthroughs.

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held Thursdays at 12:00 noon PT.

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