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ECE Seminar: Vector computations in the fly brain

Speaker Name: 
Larry Abbott
Speaker Title: 
Professor of Theoretical Neuroscience
Speaker Organization: 
Columbia University
Start Time: 
Monday, February 22, 2021 - 10:40am
End Time: 
Monday, February 22, 2021 - 11:45am
Via Zoom Presentation
Asst. Prof. Shiva Abbaszadeh


Many tasks, especially those associated with movement and navigation, require the manipulation of vectors.  I will describe collaborative work with Gaby Maimon and Cheng Lyu explaining how the Drosophila brain performs vector computations.  Specifically, experimental work in this collaboration has revealed neural representations of the direction that a fly is traveling in reference to external cues, such as the sun. These representations, which differ from previously characterized heading direction signals, allow the fly to keep track of its motion even when it drifts in a cross wind. Using both experimental results and modeling, we show in detail how the world-referenced traveling direction is computed by a neural circuit that rotates, scales, and adds vectors. This provides a detailed understanding of basic mechanisms needed for goal-directed navigation and path integration.


Larry Abbott is the William Bloor Professor of Theoretical Neuroscience at Columbia University and co-director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Columbia.  He received his PhD in physics from Brandeis University in 1977 and worked in theoretical particle physics until 1988. His research in neuroscience involves the computational modeling and mathematical analysis of neurons and neural networks. Recent work includes studies of olfaction and navigation, modeling of motor cortex and electrosensation in electric fish, and studies of the dynamics of populations of neurons.  He is the co-author, with Peter Dayan, of the text book Theoretical Neuroscience: Computational and Mathematical Modeling of Neural Systems.

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